Steve Bannon’s Rolling Constitutional Crisis: Immigrant Welfare Edition

Steve Bannon

White nationalist webmaster-turned-White House strategist Steve Bannon doesn’t care about your Constitution, or rule of law, or federal courts, or even Congress.

Instead, Bannon has a strategy to circumvent those checks and balances by establishing Donald Trump’s dictatorship through the federal bureaucracy using any number of executive orders.

We’re seeing another example of those ambitions in leaked draft orders that would punish legal immigrants and their families for using social services. The version of one order obtained by “would ask the Department of Homeland Security to issue a rule saying that an immigrant can’t be admitted to the US if he’s likely to get any benefit ‘determined in any way on the basis of income, resources, or financial need.'”

People who use any of those benefits and are in the US on visas would be subject to deportation. And the order would even require the person who sponsored an immigrant into the US to reimburse the federal government for any benefits the immigrant used (something that the government can theoretically ask for in individual cases now, but rarely does).

This is draconian. It seeks to punish not only legal immigrants in the US and their families, but also their US-citizen relatives. It’s a reflection of a worldview in which any benefit an immigrant gets from the government is, in some way, a theft of American tax money — and punishes immigrants as thieves accordingly.

Among other horrors, this order would require the costs of the now-suspended Refugee Assistance Program be published so that conservatives can rail against the price of humanitarian assistance in their radio and TV broadcasts. Unlike other types of immigrants, refugees are not screened for their ability to earn a living, as they have usually been forced to abandon their careers in order to escape civil strife or other disasters.

Trump’s three closest advisers on immigration policy — Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and former Sessions staffer Stephen Miller — all speak of legal and illegal immigration as a drain on public welfare programs. Despite being completely false, it is one of the most widespread talking points on the anti-immigrant right.

From the opening of his campaign (“Mexico is sending rapists”) to Inauguration Day, Trump pandered to that sort of anti-immigrant hate speech. Now Steve Bannon is rewarding those base voters with a series of measures that would enact the most hateful fantasies of anti-immigration propaganda, establish them as “facts,” and make sure his new rules against them are enforced.

Federal civil servants who refuse to implement unconstitutional or unlawful orders will be fired. A “shadow cabinet” of loyal political hacks will ensure that federal agencies comply with executive orders that Bannon will write. When they need explanations — an inevitability, given the lack of policy knowledge at the center of this scheme — Bannon alone will interpret their meaning. As with the ‘Muslim ban’ issued last Friday, strict instructions to ignore court orders will prevent any interference by federal marshals.

This is how Steve Bannon plans to shut the door on legal immigration and make the lives of immigrants tougher in a thousand creative ways. There will never be an end to these orders because he can never do enough to hurt them, so expect a fresh hell every week.

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