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Ilya Kravchenko

PhD in political science, RIAC expert

Flickr/Backbone Campaign
Anchorage-UltraViolet-TrumpcareAttacksWomen, July, 2017

For every analyst, specializing in U.S. studies, as for any researcher of the social and political life of the United States, the issue of sanctions is nowadays not easy to approach. Wherever one looks, there are either talks about the “Russian interference with the elections” or about the “total lack of professionalism of Donald Trump’s team”. To an outside observer, it may seem that there is nothing left in the media space of the United States except for the subject of sanctions. Nevertheless, the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center agency showed that the most Americans do not feel the threat coming from Russia, but that of the Islamic State (74%).  Running second, with the difference of three percent, there are “Cyber-attacks from other countries” (71%), running third – the “Global climate change” (56%). However, the respondents do see a threat in the “Russia’s power and influence” (47%).

In the American political circles, however, the implementation (or non-implementation) of one of Trump’s main pre-election promises raises many more questions: the reforms of public health care and the change of the migration policy. With that, took up promoting these initiatives literally from the first days of his presidency. In spite of that, the Trumpcare project was stalling actively at all the instances and was rejected (including by a large amount of representatives of the Republican Party), and the President’s idea to prohibit entrance and to restrict quotes for refugees from a number of mainly Muslim countries was implemented only partially.

“Repeal and Replace Obamacare” – that is one of the main slogans of D. Trump. The project of a new legislative act named “American Health Care Act of 2017” could even pass to the House of Representatives in May. It is worth noting that it was not as easy to do because the votes were distributed as follows: “nay” – 217, “yea” – 213. With that, 20 Republicans were against it, and none of the Democrats supported the vote. That was an alarm signal already. And as a result, in spite of Trump’s constant Twitter posts or statements at press-conferences in support of the new bill, the document could never pass the Senate. Moreover, at the voting which many Americans tagged as “historical” with the result 57-43, 9 Republicans did not support the President. The list included such “political heavyweight” as Susan Collins and John McCain. The latter even came to the Senate in spite of cerebral tumour treatment, fueling the blaze of the debates among the Republicans about the future of the public health care system in the U.S.

In this manner, one of Trump’s main bills has failed for now. But there is still hope left for him – the issues with immigration are somewhat another way round. And whereas the Trump’s presidential decrees in the sphere of migration bear temporary features, the new bill has far more long-term prospects. First of all, the document is intended to complicate not only the illegal but the legal migration as well. According to his last initiative, the lottery in getting a Green card, conducted by the State Department, is to be cancelled. In its turn, the Green card is a certificate giving the right to a non-U.S. citizen to reside and work temporarily in the American territory. Trump seems to be responding to the main critics of the program: the high-skilled specialists may await the status for years and have no clear way of getting the Green card, whereas any person with secondary education may emigrate through the lottery. Besides cancelling the lottery, the U.S. President intends to complicate the process of getting the Green card through introducing a new system of qualifications-based selection of candidates. In addition, the present administration insists on reducing the total number of legal immigrants in the U.S. territory one-half as much: from 1 million to 500 thousand persons per year.

Initially, it was Trump’s idea, but the legislative initiative was developed by the two Republican senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue as far back as February, 8. The bill was read out in public twice and passed to the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate, but never moved any further. And then the chief initiator of the whole reform decided to get down to business. As Donald Trump declared in the speech on August, 2 in the White House together with the above-mentioned senators, “the RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) will reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars”.

This is not the first attempt to change the immigration law in the U.S. history. The stringent requirements concerning persons who wish to become citizens of the USA or to get a shelter were set by the “Immigration Act of 1924”. The document provided quotes for the entrance of citizens from the Eastern and Southern Europe, with the entrance for citizens of the most Asian countries being prohibited at all. In this way, the first restriction of immigration to the United States was conducted. The restrictions were revised after practically 30 years, and the law was replaced by the “Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952”. The prohibition of the entrance of Asian countries’ citizens was cancelled. But now, the special requirements to absolutely all people immigrating to the United States were set, and even a category of “undesired foreigners” was introduced, encompassing people aiming to promote communist ideas, as well as those whose views, interests and lifestyle might threaten the ideals of the USA.

But with the respect to the RAISE Act, the story which is of interest for us is the story with the “Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986”. In fact, it became the only case of the official immigration amnesty in the history of the United States. It covered some categories of illegal immigrants who could prove that they had crossed the border of the USA before January 1, 1982, and had stayed in the territory of the state while having lived permanently in it for the last 5 years. The Law gave the possibility for the seasonal agricultural workers, and also for other categories of illegal migrants to obtain the Green card with the time. That law had far-reaching effects on the change of the ethnic composition of the South-West of the USA, having increased high growth rates of the Latin-American population.

And now, that detail is worrying Trump’s electors most of all. That is the ordinary Americans who see a threat to their economic and social welfare in the new migrants. And when applying to the citizens of the USA, in the presence of the president, the senator and the co-author of the RAISE Act, Tom Cotton says that the bill “will change all of that by re-orienting our Green Card system towards people who can speak English, who have high degrees of educational attainment, who have a job offer that pays more, and a typical job in their local economy, who are going to create a new business, and who are outstanding in their field around the world”.

Flickr/John Flores
Trumpcare NO Healthcare for 42000 LOCAL Residents, March, 2017

One could single out some common model according to which there are two directions: economic and political. Judging from the first one, when the USA is badly in need of manpower, they mitigate significantly the immigration law, as in the case with the reform of 1986. But judging by the second direction, Washington is quite ready to change the immigration laws in connection with ideological preferences (the Act of 1952) or to get political dividends inside the country (Barack Obama’s idea with the attraction of votes of Latin-Americans by means of the DACA Act of 2012).

As a result, the 45th president of the USA, for now, has had no successful bill. All of his attempts to influence the law making process were not successful. The present Head of the White House is criticized and complimented, loved and hated. Nevertheless, 52% of the Americans got more interested in politics namely from the moment Donald Trump became the president of the United States. One could say for sure that in future many more heated political discussions and law-making battles are awaiting us.

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