Trump's Immigration Crackdown Is Curiously Sparing the Bosses

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Let’s say you’re a piece of shit who wants to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in this country, for whatever dumbass reason—just pure racism, or because they’re takin’ our jobs, or because MAYBE ISIS???? Surely, with your totally consistent ideology, you would want to not only persecute immigrants (and you love doing that, to be clear), but also the employers who entice immigrants to come here to work illegally? Surely the most efficient way to cut off sources of illegal employment would be to go after the employers?


Turns out it don’t work like that. As the New York Times reported today, just 11 employers were prosecuted for hiring undocumented workers between March 2018 and March 2019—and those “most likely to face prosecution tend to be immigrants who own small businesses such as restaurants.”

The infuriating broader context for this is that the Trump Organization itself has benefited from the labor of undocumented immigrants. (That sound you hear is Jimmy Carter spitting.) Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that Trump’s company had fired at least 18 undocumented workers from his shitty golf clubs. Yes, Trump’s business has fired several more undocumented workers than the number of employers his administration has prosecuted for hiring such workers. Late last month, the Post also reported New York’s attorney general was investigating claims that undocumented workers were expected to do extra labor without pay at a Trump country club.

Trump’s company, in other words, is exactly the kind of shitty business the law should technically be going after.

But going easy on law-breaking employers is completely in line with Republican Party ideology on immigration. The goal is not to prevent immigrants from coming here, and the strategy is certainly not to punish their employers for breaking immigration law (with underpaid, shitty jobs); it’s to create an underclass of immigrants who have no labor protections, no hope of citizenship, and no option but to do whatever their employer wants.

That’s why you still get some Republicans who talk up the virtue of the H-1B visa system and propose to expand it, ever since Trump and the party went fully mask off on immigration. Many big companies and the powerful Chamber of Commerce love the H-1B visa, because it’s a very efficient way to bring in low wage workers who are much more dependent on you than an American citizen would be. A worker on an H-1B is tied to their employer—get fired for speaking up and you’re immediately out-of-status and must leave the country. (It’s the same with the H-2B visa program, which the Trump Organization uses to hire seasonal guest workers.)

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is pursuing as many policies as it can to make life miserable for immigrants. The proposed “public charge” rule is designed to scare immigrants away from any government programs like food stamps or Medicaid. This is already happening, even though the rule is not law yet. Numerous rule changes at USCIS have made filing immigration applications much more terrifying and onerous; for example, small mistakes in an application for a green card that the immigrant actually does qualify for could put them in deportation proceedings. Good luck if you can’t afford a lawyer.


Though you might find it contradictory for the administration to go after immigrant workers so hard while going easy on their employers, or indeed to go after immigrant workers so hard while their employers need them to function, it all makes perfect sense to them. They want to create a class of downtrodden, desperate workers who are ineligible for any public benefits and live in constant fear of deportation, so that their employers can get away with anything.

Sometimes, the Stephen Millers get a bit carried away and propose policies that veer too far toward the racism part and less toward the propping up capital part, but it all works out in the end. You can still chum it up with the big companies that benefit from this labor at your Washington lobbying parties and have a good ol’ laugh about the kids in cages and the scared mothers who can’t get baby formula over canapés. This isn’t some new invention of the Trump administration; it’s capitalism, just a little bit more unleashed.

Splinter politics writer.