At his campaign-style rally in Iowa last night, Trump repeated the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from him. He lied prodigiously and his supporters ate it up. The folks at Morning Joe did a good job of chronicling the lies.
But one of the items they included wasn’t so much a lie as it was yet another example of this president (and his speechwriters) putting his ignorance on display. Trump said:
The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years. We’ll be putting in legislation to that effect very shortly.
Apparently that line received a rapturous standing ovation.
Here’s the problem with that: the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 says that an immigrant is “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit” for 5 years, which starts on the date the immigrant enters the country. So a law has already existed for over 20 years that does what the president promised to do.
Beyond demonstrating the president’s ignorance, that statement and the response it got from the audience tells us a lot about how right wingers have been attempting to inflame xenophobia about immigrants. This isn’t Trump’s usual tirade about “illegal immigrants” crossing our Southern border in hordes and committing crimes. Notice that this one is about “new immigration rules.” Now we’re talking about legal immigrants. The suggestion is that they are consuming government resources on welfare—which is a lie, because they are already barred from doing so for 5 years.
This is exactly the kind of message you would expect from the white nationalist duo in the White House of Bannon and Miller, as Joshua Green noted a few months ago.
“The media tends to cover immigration issues through the frame of how it impacts everybody but actual citizens of the United States,” Miller complains…
Miller and Bannon want Trump to undertake a radical recasting of U.S. policies, from immigration to trade to taxation, that would invert this frame by making the interests of [white] U.S. citizens (or what Miller and Bannon perceive to be their interests) predominant, almost to the point of exclusivity.
Last night the president was telling that crowd in Iowa that they have a reason to resent (brown) immigrants because they are using programs supported by your federal tax dollars. He vowed to put a stop to that.
I doubt that Trump, Bannon or Miller care that the whole frame was based on ignorance. They got their message across to people who aren’t likely to see the fact check. The only thing that continues to prop up this president’s support is the politics of resentment that is primarily based on ignorance.