Since meeting with a group of Hispanic Republicans over the weekend, Trump’s been floundering on immigration, suggesting, for instance, that he may not be against amnesty after all. His embarrassing performance on O’Reilly Monday was followed by taping of a town hall with Hannity Tuesday where he made all kinds of Jeb-like comments (it’s not amnesty if they pay back taxes, etc. – you know the drill).
There are plenty of obvious reasons he’s in this pickle – saying whatever pops into his head, unwillingness to listen to his own knowledgeable advisors, utter lack of engagement even with a one-page fact sheet on this or any other policy issue.
But in a more basic sense Trump is simply stepping on the same rake that most Republican politicians do when asked about amnesty. This struck me Tuesday when I read Washington Post lefty blogger Greg Sargent’s comment that Trump “is still not taking a real position on the core dilemma we face” (my emphasis) – meaning what to do about the current illegal population.
But the disposition of the 12 million illegals already here is not the core dilemma we face. The core dilemma is how to we make sure we don’t end up with another 12 million illegal aliens. The very act of accepting the anti-borders crowd’s version of the “core dilemma” represents a surrender – once you’ve bought into their proposition, you’re left only to negotiate the price. (Fred Bauer makes a similar point about the “Amnesty Trap.”)
As NR’s editorial put it: “Once the illegal population has measurably diminished, then we can have a discussion about what to do with the balance of the illegal population.” In other words, this is a secondary question, not the “core dilemma.”
Until Republican politicians – all of them, not just Trump – internalize that fact, they’re going to remain at a disadvantage, always in the defensive when discussing illegal immigration. “Enforcement First” isn’t just a slogan – it’s a strategy.