Donald Trump Touts ‘Pro-American Immigration’ Strategy

FILE - In this undated photo of a group of immigrants, who arrived at Ellis Island in New York, wait in line to begin immigration proceedings. Senior White House aide Stephen Miller told reporters Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, that the poem written by Emma Lazarus about the "huddled masses" is …
AP Photo/File

President Donald Trump says he is pushing for “pro-American immigration” policies, marking a huge rhetorical jump from the pro-business cliches and slogans preferred by establishment leaders and lobbies.

“In perhaps no area did the Washington special interests try harder to stop us than on my policy of pro-American immigration,” Trump said in his August 28 acceptance speech, adding:

But I refused to back down, and today America’s borders are more secure than ever before.

We ended catch and release, stopped asylum fraud, took down human traffickers who prey on women and children, and we have deported 20,000 gang members and 500,000 criminal aliens. We have already built 300 miles of border wall, and we are adding 10 new miles every single week. The wall will soon be complete, and it is working beyond our wildest expectations.

… When I learned that the Tennessee Valley Authority laid off hundreds of American workers and forced them to train their lower-paid foreign replacements, I promptly removed the chairman of the board, and now those talented American workers have been rehired and are back providing power to Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia. They have their old jobs back, and some are here with us this evening.

The “pro-American immigration” phrase is an improvement over establishment slogans, such as “Nation of Immigrants,” or “diversity is our strength,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration studies.

“It is useful in the sense that it’s not going to differentiate policy specifics … but it does put [pro-migration groups under pressure] to concoct a rationale for how what they want is also pro-American,” he said.

The rhetorical struggle over slogan and cliches is important, Krikorian said.

Cliches clearly affect the way people think about an issue if they’re repeated enough. That was one of [George] Orwell’s message in 1984: Once people can’t articulate their concerns about an issue, you know the powers-that-be have won … If there’s no way to talk about immigration that doesn’t include the cliches about a “Nation of Immigrants” and “Diversity Is Our Strength,” then it becomes difficult for people to even articulate their concerns about immigration because they don’t have the words for it.

Establishment advocates use other slogans, such as “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” and “Broken Immigration System,” to fill up busy people’s minds and social media, he said.

“‘Broken Immigration System’ is a cliche … It’s a way of seeming to connect with ordinary people’s concerns about immigration policy. suggesting, ‘I feel your pain, we can all agree that our immigration system is broken,'” Krikorian said.

The “Broken Immigration System” cliche is intended to suggest to voters the immigration system can be fixed by neutral experts, and to hide the political question, “of how many people should we take, and how do we pick them?” he said.

“‘Comprehensive Immigration Reform’ is the cliche for what they want, which is amnesty and de facto open borders,” he said. But the public now recognizes the term as “a synonym for amnesty,” he added.

“Broken Immigration System” should be understood as “we want an amnesty,” he added. That theme is pushed by many business groups as they try again to raise the flow of controllable and disposable foreign workers into Americans’ labor market.

The establishment slogans become so ingrained that they often are repeated without thought, said Krikorian.

On September 9, just a week after Trump talked up “pro-American immigration,” the “broken immigration system” slogan was echoed by his own deputy at the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf:

We began by pushing our borders out and keeping Americans safe through a layered approach that includes: more effective screening of those who are seeking entry into our country, securing unprecedented international cooperation, fully applying the law to all those who break it, reforming our broken immigration system and—last but certainly not least—building the border wall system.

Biden has built his immigration policy on the “Nation of Immigrants” theme.

His immigration platform is titled, “The Biden Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants,” and it promises to import more visa workers for companies, to import visa workers for mayors, more refugees for use by meatpackers and other low-wage employers to accelerate the inflow of chain migration migrants, and to suspend immigration enforcement against illegals.

The “Nation of Immigrants” claim was promoted in the late 1950s during the Cold War by then-Sen. John Kennedy. In October 2018, Breitbart reported Rep. Joe Kenndy’s description of the claim:

Few felt it as deeply as President John F. Kennedy. In his 1964 book A Nation of Immigrants, recently re-released, my great-uncle outlines the compelling case for immigration, in economic, moral, and global terms. “The abundant resources of this land provided the foundation for a great nation,” he writes. “But only people could make the opportunity a reality. Immigration provided the human resources.”

The “Nation of Immigrants” theme was pushed strongly through the 1970s and 1980s, and it has almost buried the prior cultural focus on Pilgrim landings, settlers in covered wagons, and Western gunfights.

Trump, however, evoked the image of settlers and pilgrims in his 2020 acceptance speech:

We are not a nation of timid spirits. We are a nation of fierce, proud, and independent American patriots. We are a nation of pilgrims, pioneers, adventurers, explorers, and trailblazers who refuse to be tied down, held back, or in any way reigned in. Americans have steel in their spines, grit in their souls, and fire in their hearts. There is no one like us on Earth. I want every child in America to know that you are part of the most exciting and incredible adventure in human history.

The Nation of Immigrants theme was strongly pushed by President Barack Obama, usually with the claim that only immigrants — not American children — can revitalize a sagging America. “We can never say it often or loudly enough: Immigrants and refugees revitalize and renew America,” former President Barack Obama claimed at December 2015 naturalization ceremony while standing under a giant mural of the nation’s Founding Fathers.

Former President George W. Bush repeats the same immigrants-bring-vitality claim. In August 2020, for example, he released a book of portraits titled, “Out of Many, One.” The book showcases the immigrants “who bring energy, and talent, and faith in the future … may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength,” according to statements from the George. W. Bush Presidential Center.

When in office, Bush coined a 2004 business-focussed slogan, dubbed “Any Willing Worker,” or “Willing worker, willing employer.”  The term was intended to end Americans’ right to their own national labor market. He declared:

I propose a new temporary worker program that will match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. This program will offer legal status, as temporary workers, to the millions of undocumented men and women now employed in the United States, and to those in foreign countries who seek to participate in the program and have been offered employment here. This new system should be clear and efficient, so employers are able to find workers quickly and simply.

All who participate in the temporary worker program must have a job, or, if not living in the United States, a job offer. The legal status granted by this program will last three years and will be renewable — but it will have an end. Participants who do not remain employed, who do not follow the rules of the program, or who break the law will not be eligible for continued participation and will be required to return to their home.

The plan would have allowed “Any employer to import any number of workers from anywhere in the world to do any job at any wage above minimum wage,” said Krikorian.

Business groups also use “update,” as if the immigration system merely needs some tune-ups by experts. “We haven’t updated our high-skilled immigration system in over 25 years, and we’re clearly seeing and feeling the consequences,” said an April 1, 2019 statement by, a lobby group for West Coast investors.

Advocacy groups also reportedly use “skilled” because polls show the public believes there is a shortage of skilled U.S. workers. For example, the group used “skilled” 28 times in a September report. In reality, most of the visa workers imported for the Fortune 500 have technical and cultural skills far below those held by U.S. graduates.


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