Politics & Policy

Trump’s Immigration Plan Is a Good Start — for All GOP Candidates

(Andrew Burton/Getty)

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.

Likewise, several of the enforcement policies that follow should be widely adopted: increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, encouraging greater cooperation between ICE and local gang task forces, implementing e-Verify nationwide, deporting criminal aliens, ending catch-and-release policies, defunding sanctuary cities, and increasing penalties for visa overstays. These are all important elements of any meaningful effort to enforce America’s immigration laws.

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.

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Trump’s written plan includes his famous pledge to make Mexico pay for our border wall. However much the Mexican government has “taken advantage of” American largesse or our porous border, trying to impose this retributive scheme on it is absurd. America’s border is America’s responsibility. One of Trump’s ideas for funding the structure is to “impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages,” an impossibility. (Oklahoma has put into effect a better idea: The state levies a 1 percent fee on all personal wire transfers sending cash out of the state. Because these fees are withholdings from the state income tax, they only harm residents who fail to pay state income taxes — namely, illegal aliens and other tax evaders.)

#related#On legal immigration, Trump’s plan sketches out an immigration “pause” with reduced immigration levels that resemble “more moderate historical averages.” That would be a welcome change, but the plan includes no details about how to achieve this. Likewise, Trump’s desire to end abuse of the H-1B visa program, which enables IT employers to lay off American workers and import foreign workers to perform the same jobs at significantly lower cost, is laudable; H-1B visas should not be allowed to be an avenue by which employers can undercut American workers. But his proposal — simply to increase the “prevailing wage” — is more likely than not just to invite more meddling from the same lawyers and bureaucrats who already exercise outsized importance in H-1B decisions.

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. 

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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