What Trump Could Have Said about Immigration, but Didn’t

Published on August 26th, 2016

By Joe Guzzardi
August 26, 2016

The instant that Donald Trump announced that he revised – some say softened – his immigration stance, he managed to accomplish two things, both detrimental to his election hopes.
First, Trump promised that illegal immigrants would have “to pay back taxes” to stay in the U.S., and therefore critics should not construe his plan as “amnesty per se.” But Trump turned off a large part of his base that recognized his deceptive language as straight from the Senate Gang of Eight amnesty playbook, a red flag to enforcement advocates.
Second, what Trump may have perceived as Hispanic voter outreach will be fruitless. Hispanics vote Democrat, and Trump cannot move further to the left on immigration than Hillary Clinton. Trump said that his altered immigration vision came about because his Hispanic advisors warned that deporting 12 million aliens is impossible. They insisted on knowing the eventual fate of 12 million aliens which, according to the media, is the nation’s “core problem.”
In the days leading up to his self-destructive proclamation, Trump rejected sound, and achievable, recommendations from his insider team. The “core problem,” they told Trump, is assuring that today’s 12 million don’t become the next decade’s 24 million.
To that end, Trump could have stated that before specifically considering what he would do with the current illegal immigration population, he would institute phase one of his enforcement-oriented administration. This would include securing the border; ending catch and release, President Obama’s self-defeating policy of apprehending illegal border crossers and, instead of returning them home, releasing them into the general public; restoring workplace enforcement; mandating E-Verify which ensures that only citizens and legal immigrants hold American jobs; implementing a sensible refugee resettlement program, and ending the pointless diversity visa and the terrorist-facilitating visa waiver program.
Other widely abused visas should also be eliminated or severely restricted: the J, supposedly to encourage cultural exchange, but in reality a vehicle that big businesses use to hire cheap summer help, the K fiancé visa which paved the way for San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik, and the L which displaces American workers under the guise of corporate transfers from abroad. Make sure that guest worker visas, about 750,000 annually, are given only to industries that have a true labor shortage, and not those that create an artificial void by their unwillingness to pay a living wage.
Phase two: implement legislation already passed by Congress, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 and the airport biometric entry-exit tracking system, introduced two decades ago. This system will ensure that visitors will go home, and not overstay as more than 40 percent do. Once that laundry list of sensible immigration reforms is completed then, and only then, Trump could turn his attention to existing illegal immigrants.
As for Trump’s pledge that illegal immigrants will pay back taxes in exchange for legal residency, the challenge to determine what they might owe, and to collect it, would be insurmountable. According to a 2007 Congressional Budget Review report, at least half of illegal workers already have income and payroll taxes withheld. Among those who don't, many would not owe back income tax because they didn't make enough money. Some could be eligible for earned income tax credits. And while the unlawful immigrants would owe back Social Security and Medicare taxes, so would the employers who illegally hired them. Good luck retroactively collecting those.
In short, with his immigration change-of-heart Trump managed, as he so often does, to appease few, but anger many.

A Senior Writing Fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization,
Joe Guzzardi is at [email protected] and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

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