Published on: Nov 06, 2018, Last Edited: Nov 06, 2018
With the mid-term elections taking place this week, President Donald Trump is acting tough on illegal immigration. With the caravans of migrants still hundreds of miles away, US troops have arrived at the US-Mexican border and have started to fan out across southern Texas, erecting barbed wire fences in the hope of heading off anyone trying to get through without a USA visa. Miguel Angel Yunes, the governor of the Mexican state of Veracruz, offered to provide 100 buses to take the migrants elsewhere. Mexico City is said to be unable to host them due to planned maintenance to the city’s water supply.
President Trump told the troops that if they encountered migrants throwing rocks, they should retaliate as if the missiles were rifles - a statement he later retracted. The migrant caravans have so far been peaceful: some migrants suggesting that since Trump’s own mother was an immigrant from Scotland, he should be more sympathetic to their plight.
Reactions of local residents are divided, some disapproving of the anti-immigrant rhetoric and seeing the presence of troops as a misuse of public money while others are approving of the highly visible measures being taken to discourage immigration without the proper visas.
Last week, President Donald Trump emphasised his America First policy when he tweeted that one way or another, birthright citizenship would be ended. He stated that this is not subject to the 14th Amendment because of the phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”, sparking a bitterly fought debate.
Liberals such as political historian Allan Lichtman see this as political manoeuvring ahead of the elections rather than a serious policy proposal, raising fears about the so-called immigrant threat: Lichtman says that the original proponents of the 14th amendment clearly intended near-universal birthright citizenship. For example, it was awarded to the children of Chinese residents who were themselves ineligible for citizenship at the time.
However, conservative lawyers see a loophole, saying the framers of the 14th intended it to apply only to those who owed full allegiance to the US and were subject to its complete jurisdiction, in particular, newly-freed slaves who were subject to no other foreign power. They want to remove any incentive for people to enter the US illegally and have children who would become citizens of the country.
Lichtman sees the current anti-immigrant rhetoric as nothing new and that nationalism and fear of immigrants go back to the first days of the republic. While an executive order is unlikely to succeed, the only other possible option to change the 14th amendment would be to amend the constitution. This is an action that would require a supermajority, consisting of a two thirds majority in Congress as well as a three quarters majority of the states: this is why an amendemnt to the constitution happens only rarely.
America First is also reflected in the news that Washington has just introduced new provisions to the H-1B visa application process, whereby US employers must disclose the number of foreign workers they employ, so making it more difficult for them to sponsor new foreign employees.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that is particularly popular with professionals from India. It permits US companies to employ foreign workers in sectors that require technical or theoreteical expertise, such as IT.
The changes mean that a company must get its application approved by the Department of Labour before offering sposnorship to a guest worker form a foreign country. The DOL must certifdy that there is no American worker available for a particular job and that the company is therfor eligible to hire a foreign national under the H-1B visa scheme.
Updates to the application form will also require companies to submit further information about employment conditions for H-1B workers, such as places of employment, and will also need to provide an estimate of the number of H-1B workers at each location. Employers who depend on H-1B visa workers who claim an exemption on the grounds of education, such as a higher degree, will also need to provide full documentary evidence of the degree.