Even among hard-core, right-wing Republicans, it’s hard to find consensus on what to do about the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. But Donald Trump, the improbable front-runner in the GOP presidential race, has an easy fix.
The billionaire gadfly from New York who has blustered and bragged and boomed his way to a lead in the polls has released his plan on immigration, and it does not disappoint those in his party who want national policy to move to the extreme right.
Just send them home, Trump says. Eliminate the constitutional “birthright” provision that recognizes citizenship for those born in the United States, something that came in under the 14th Amendment in 1868. Make Mexico build a wall. Rescind President Obama’s executive order granting temporary resident status to approximately 5 million immigrants. Triple the number of immigrations and customs enforcement agents and create a system to verify workers’ legal status. Suspend the issuance of new green cards.
Trump refers to “criminal aliens.” He used to say it would be OK for “the good ones” to stay, but now he apparently just wants to send virtually all of them home to Mexico. Slight problem there, as not all are from Mexico.
To this extreme and wholly impractical view, Trump’s GOP opponents appear to be either cowering in fear or agreeing with him. In the cases of Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, neither has gone as far as Trump, and Kasich indicates he’d like to find a way for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally to win legal status.
Trump’s “plans” would cost into the billions of dollars, and though he says he’d create penalties for Mexico if that nation didn’t build the wall he wants, it’s hard to see how he’d force an independent nation to do his will. Mexico isn’t some lesser real estate developer in Brooklyn Trump can just run over.
Once again, he’s playing to the loud grandstand on the GOP right.
But some in the Republican Party have legitimate fears about embracing Trump’s ideas for practical reasons. Hispanics are a rapidly growing part of the population, and giving away their votes in the next election, which Trump most assuredly is doing, would be political suicide in the view of some GOP operatives. Republicans have gotten small percentages of that now-growing vote, and for that percentage to decrease even more would help another Democrat get a lease on the White House.
When Trump descended the escalator in Trump Tower some months ago, Republicans and Democrats alike were amused by the brash fellow who boasted of his wealth and said he had all the answers. Republicans are no longer laughing. Democrats are hoping for a long Trump campaign. And the American public is witnessing a political party divided and intimidated by a man who thinks a presidential campaign is just another merger or acquisition.