Restoring the ‘soul of the nation’ means taking in refugees

By | April 16, 2021

Adam Serwer writes:

One of the Trump administration’s early priorities was engineering a whiter America through immigration restrictions. We know this because it told us so.

“U.S. demographics have been changing rapidly—and undesirably in the eyes of top Trump aides, including his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and domestic policy advisor Stephen Miller,” the Los Angeles Times reported in February 2017. The travel ban targeting Muslim nations was the first step in an agenda “to reshape American demographics for the long term and keep out people who Trump and senior aides believe will not assimilate.”

The key phrase there is will not assimilate. Nothing is inherently wrong with nations adopting immigration policies best adapted to their economic needs. But Miller, Bannon, and Trump used immigrants who will not assimilate as code for immigrants who are not white and Christian. Miller privately praised racist immigration restrictions targeting Eastern and Southern Europeans, Jews, Africans, and Asians that the United States adopted in the early 20th century. Bannon famously lamented the presence of South Asian tech workers in Silicon Valley. And Trump himself complained about African, Latin American, and Caribbean immigrants as being fromshithole countries,” an assessment rooted in the racial backgrounds of these immigrants, rather than their individual capabilities.

The L.A. Times also cited an anonymous senior administration official, who told the paper that “we don’t want a situation where, 20 to 30 years from now, it’s just like a given thing that on a fairly regular basis there is domestic terror strikes, stores are shut up or that airports have explosive devices planted, or people are mowed down in the street by cars and automobiles and things of that nature.” Later that year, a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, part of a crowd that had shouted “Jews will not replace us!” the night before, used a car to mow down anti-racist protesters. Trump memorably equated the two groups, insisting that there were “fine people on both sides.”

Two weeks later, the future president, Joe Biden, wrote in The Atlantic that the murder of Heather Heyer, the growing confidence of white-nationalist groups, and Trump’s defense of them had deeply affected him.

“We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support,” Biden wrote. “If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now: We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation.”

Biden returned to a battle for the soul of this nation as a campaign theme in 2020—successfully, as it turned out. Which raises the mystery of why President Biden is quietly maintaining one of the Trump era’s most discriminatory policies and a key element of Trump advisers’ broader agenda of making America white again: the throttling of refugee admissions. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports:

Facing swift blowback from allies and aid groups, the White House on Friday said President Joe Biden plans to lift his predecessor’s historically low cap on refugees by next month, after initially moving only to expand the eligibility criteria for resettlements.

In an emergency determination signed by Biden earlier in the day, he stated the admission of up to 15,000 refugees set by former President Donald Trump this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.” But if the cap is reached before the end of the current budget year and the emergency refugee situation persists, then a presidential determination may be issued to raise the ceiling.

That set off a deluge of criticism from top allies on Capitol Hill such as the second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, who called that initial limit “unacceptable.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said later that Biden is expected to increase the refugee cap by May 15, though she didn’t say by how much. [Continue reading…]

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