Mark Krikorian | CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES
Maybe what is most remarkable about Trump’s new immigration paper is that none of the other candidates beat him to it.
I mean no disrespect to his policy people, but anyone could have written it in a few days, a week maybe. The material is easily found online and unlike, say, health care policy, it’s really not that complicated.
Which suggests that the campaigns of most of the other leading candidates hoped they could avoid offering an actual plan, finessing the issue instead by mouthing platitudes for the yahoos without specifics that might upset donors. Trump’s paper takes direct aim at this strategy when it states “Real immigration reform puts the needs of working people first – not wealthy globetrotting donors.”
And that makes me pessimistic about anyone adopting Ian Tuttle’s sensible suggestion over at National Review that a “candidate who wants to be formidable, and knock Trump from his perch, would assert The Donald’s principles, then bolster them with solid policies.”
The three principles the paper offers wouldn’t even have to be articulated in a healthier society; of course immigration policy must be based exclusively on the interests of We the People of the United States, not wealthy donors, not corporations, not union bosses, not big-city politicians, and not foreign citizens. Their articulation is nonetheless useful as a way to flush out libertarian and leftist opponents of American sovereignty.
As to the specifics: When the WaPo reported that Trump called Sen. Jeff Sessions to talk immigration, I’d assumed the senator wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise. Well, that does not seem to have been the case, because there’s a lot of specifics in Trump’s paper, and they’re mostly quite good. Among them: Nationwide E-Verify, visa-tracking for foreign visitors, cutting off aid to sanctuary cities, making overstay of a visa a criminal offense, tightening up on H-1B visas to prevent their being used to import cheap labor, ending birthright citizenship, and more. It even addresses the excesses of refugee resettlement.
The final item in the paper is a call for “immigration moderation,” a verbatim echo of Sen. Sessions’ words from earlier this year. But while Rick Santorum has called for a 25 percent cut in the current immigration level of 1 million per year (by eliminating the lottery and certain chain-migration categories), Trump’s paper doesn’t offer specifics here. On the other hand, it’s just a six-page paper, so there’s plenty of opportunity to elaborate.
I’m less enthusiastic about the first section of the paper, on Mexico and the border. Its antagonism toward Mexico is not constructive – Mexico is indeed obstructionist in many areas, but it has been induced to be helpful in others (for instance, by interdicting many of the Central American illegals headed north). Our approach to our neighbor to the south must be firm, but not ham-handed.
On the other hand, the paper makes Trump’s earlier comments about making Mexico pay for the construction of a border wall seem less absurd. It proposes a number of ways to extract funds, including “impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages” and increased visa fees on various Mexican travelers. These may or may not be good ideas, but they’re not preposterous.
So, while I think Ann Coulter exaggerates just a little when she calls Trump’s paper “The greatest political document since the Magna Carta,” it does clearly advance the immigration debate. Some of these specifics will almost certainly come up in the CNN debate next month and Trump’s rivals will have to respond. As someone who personally does not support Trump’s nomination (though CIS takes no position on electoral contests), I sincerely hope one of the other candidates makes these ideas his own in order to “knock Trump from his perch.” But whether or not that happens, the Overton window for immigration has moved appreciably in the direction most of the public prefers.