President Donald Trump announced support for immigration legislation Wednesday that would cut by half the federal program that allows legal immigration into the country and stop giving priority to relatives of citizens and legal residents. It has little support and no chance of passing. Yet he held a news conference about drastic changes to legal immigration policies that would trample the nation’s ideals.
The president is scrambling, trying to change the narrative and turn the spotlight away from the health insurance debacle, plummeting polls, a potential news-rigging scandal, Russian sanctions he did not want and his strange affinity for making untrue statements.
Trump feels he needs to re-energize his base as his poll numbers hit all-time lows. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows the president’s approval is down to 39 percent, 18 points lower than his disapproval rating. Even Trump’s personal favorite poll, Rasmussen, showed his approval rating slipping to 39 percent this week.
And the credibility of the White House keeps getting called into question. A federal lawsuit claims that Trump himself was involved in a discredited and retracted Fox News story. The story asserted that a Democratic National Committee worker might have been killed because of the false claim that he was the one dumping documents damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, not the Russia-backed WikiLeaks.
And then there are casually invented, easily revealed untruths. Trump’s too-political and strange speech to the national Boy Scout Jamboree about how builder William Levitt lost his empire got mixed reviews. But when The Wall Street Journal described it that way, Trump disagreed. “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful,” he said. The Boy Scouts say no such call was made.
Trump also claimed Monday he had a phone call from the president of Mexico congratulating him on his success in stopping illegal crossings at our Southern border. Trump said, “Even the president of Mexico called me. Their Southern border, they said very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get to our border, which is the ultimate compliment.” But President Enrique Peña Nieto says the call never happened, and a Trump spokeswoman admitted there was no call. The White House later said Trump meant to say he was congratulated in person after the Boy Scout speech and spoke to Nieto at the G-20 summit last month. Nieto says the two did discuss migration then, but also says the numbers Trump claims Nieto gave him are not the ones the Mexican president provided.
As for the immigration plan Trump introduced, it would slash by half the number of people who could move here legally each year. It would also stop favoring family members of legal residents, instead rewarding highly skilled workers and those who can speak English. In other words, it would create a set of rules entirely different from the ones that allowed our forebears to come here and build lives.
Trump’s theme for this week is “American dream.” But increasingly, this is turning into a nightmare. — The editorial board