Even though he has made it the cornerstone of his campaign, Donald Trump’s immigration hawkishness has until now consisted of bravado rather than substance. His newly released immigration platform, while bearing characteristic flaws, is a marked improvement: It is sensible in its basic outline and better in many respects than the ideas presented by his rivals.
Trump grounds his policies in “three core principles” — that a nation should control its border, enforce its immigration laws, and put its own workers first — that are not only unobjectionable but should be the starting point of any reasonable immigration policy. How regrettable that until now, none of the candidates have articulated them in any systematic way.
The plan doesn’t address what to do with illegal immigrants already here, which is defensible because enforcement should be the first priority. But Trump’s mouth has gotten far out in front of his written plan, and he continues to talk up a cracked version of amnesty. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, he reiterated his intention to deport, then re-import, current illegal immigrants — a de facto amnesty that is more costly, time-consuming, and logistically fraught than any currently on the table. Additionally, Trump’s stated intention to avoid separating families by sending American-born children with their parents is obviously illegal; the United States government has no authority to deport American citizens.
Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship is sure to be the most controversial element of the plan, but it is also sure to be a nonstarter. While birthright citizenship is abused now, ending it would be a Herculean task politically and the Supreme Court is unlikely to be cooperative.
All that said, the rest of the Republican field would do well to take up Trump’s principles and supplement them with a fuller range of sensible policies. The best of Trump’s enforcement proposals should be the lowest common denominator in the GOP, and to them can be added better proposals for barriers at the border and for illegal aliens in the country — all to be articulated with the seriousness that Trump too often lacks. Immigration is too important to be left to The Donald.