Cooke On Trump’s Immigration Policies

Jenny Nguyen

On Wednesday, April 12, Charles C. W. Cooke, editor of the National Review Online, discussed his views on President Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration. Cooke has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times and has also authored the book “The Conservatarian Manifesto.” His lecture focused not only on the executive orders themselves, but also on America’s shifting views on immigration, current immigration policies and the role of the judicial branch.

Cooke began his talk by exploring what he thought President Trump and the conservatives did properly in regards to immigration. He pointed out that Trump’s position was in fact the American public’s “mainstream” position until very recently, when immigration became a partisan issue. The notion that “America has always been a nation of immigrants” is  misleading; public opinion – and by extension, policy – changes as the political and economic climate changes. Cooke then cited two of our nation’s founders, Jefferson and Hamilton, in warning that immigrants who don’t share American values would erode and corrupt America’s “national spirit.” 

Cooke also believed the President was on the right side of the law with his

immigration orders, criticizing the decisions of federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland. He stated that these decisions had insufficient standing, presented an unprecedented infringement of the legislative and executive branch’s power on immigration policy and made a dangerous introduction of sentiment into judicial processes. The federal judge in Hawaii, in particular, cited Trump’s campaign rhetoric to interpret the intention of his immigration orders, an act which Cooke believed can have far-reaching consequences in undermining executive powers at large.

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Cooke said. “We don’t want to destroy the process because the President is wrong.”

Cooke, however, took issue with the content of the immigration orders. Including green card holders in the ban, for example, is “vindictive and irrational,” Cooke argued, as the vetting process for green cards is already extremely vigorous. According to Cooke, the careless execution, failure to notify appropriate agencies and hasty rollout that caused widespread confusion and chaos also demonstrated “incompetence” within Trump’s administration.

“This is not a policy, this is a panic,” Cooke said.

Finally, Cooke lamented what he saw as a missed opportunity to reform America’s immigration policy. An immigrant himself, Cooke focused on those flaws in the system such as favoring those with family connections over well-educated intellectuals who can contribute to the American economy. Instead, the current debate centers on a “crackdown” of illegal immigration. While Cooke agreed that this is a major issue, he insisted that the debate should be about respecting a country’s sovereignty and rule of law, not, he quoted, “how enjoyable it would be to watch border patrols keep people out.” 

On this point, Cooke also argued against building a physical border wall, but for more practical measures such as implementing more protection at critical spots along the border or increasing the use of E-Verify to confirm workers’ immigration status.

Senior Jade Hoang particularly resonated with Cooke’s argument about past immigration policies. 

“He pointed out that, contrary to the population’s imagination, the U.S. has not been a country of immigrants and open to unregulated flows of people,” Hoang said. “This assertion should caution us against making simplified, inaccurate claims about what the U.S. now stands for without acknowledging the complex, sometimes violent past of the politics of people management in this country.”