Donald Trump is demonstrating himself to be an unserious candidate for serious times.
After many weeks of waiting, Trump’s brain trust has finally unveiled his immigration plan. Line one, paragraph one:
When politicians talk about “immigration reform” they mean: amnesty, cheap labor and open borders.
…which a reasonable reader could conclude that Trump is perfectly satisfied with the status quo?
The crux of Trump’s plan is to triple the size of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. What are they supposed to do? Well, Trump doesn’t quite specify that beyond “enforce the laws” — though he laments that U.S. Border Patrol has tripled in size while enforcement and removal operations have languished.
One might reasonably conclude that if the problem is border enforcement, ICE isn’t exactly the answer. That would unfortunately be the reaction of a reasonable person.
There are precious few details within the white paper itself about how all of these are supposed to connect: nationwide e-verify, for instance, as well as ending birthright citizenship (a long standing condition stretching back to English common law). Trump argues for a “pause” or suspension in the issuance of green cards for an unspecified amount of time, ostensibly for the “duration of the emergency” and so forth. Trump turns back many refugee programs and applies those resources to America’s inner cities, which is bad news for many fleeing oppressive regimes elsewhere in the world. Lastly, Trump argues for a program to force employers to hire American workers first and foremost, eliminating the “high walls, wide gates” argument that many previously argued for mere high walls.
Amazingly enough, given the scale and scope of the problem along the Mexican border, there is precious little information about drug interdiction or the impact of Mexican cartels. Nothing about the Merida Initiative, Plan Colombia, enhancing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s reach, or co-operation with the Mexican government on stabilizing Central America. There is precious little about enhancing the ability of the U.S. Coast Guard to improve interdiction efforts. Recognizing that drug cartels operate as insurgencies that destabilize regions and send refugees north is a critical component of any immigration solution. Trump and his advisors completely miss the prime driver.
Moreover, by antagonizing Mexico and forcing them to pay for any prospective wall, Trump ignores the fact that walls work both ways. Mexico is America’s #3 trade partner, accounting for 14% of all American trade totaling $262 billion dollars. Placing tariffs on Mexico to pay for a wall is simply not a solution that will work, especially when the price tag is more than the Mexican government can afford while combating the cartels. In short, even if one is willing to make an argument that a wall will make it more difficult for the drug traffickers, one need only look to the Israelis as to how little walls do to prevent trafficking. Cost of business won’t go up, precious resources are diverted from the Mexican federales, and an illegal immigration problem quickly becomes a refugee and narco-terrorist problem.
Let’s raise the stakes a bit. The wall is built, e-verify is in place (and the prospects of a black market? Trump doesn’t address this), visa overstays have increased penalties, which further drive overstays deeper underground. Sanctuary cities are cut off, but the 8-20 million people are still here. ICE is tripled in force, and is instructed by Trump to work more closely with local law enforcement in their anti-gang activities…
There is a great deal of focus on targeting criminal elements within the illegal population, mostly gang driven. There is a great deal of attention focused on Mexico and Mexican immigrants, legal or otherwise. There is a great deal of attention focused on law enforcement and hardening the detainment and deportation process.
One can read the strategy here quickly:
1. Force illegal immigrants and undocumented workers into the shadows.
2. Toughen ICE and local law enforcement’s anti-gang enforcement capabilities.
3. Force illegal immigrants to operate outside the boundaries.
4. Stop all work visas for an indefinite period.
5. Hunters to the hounds…
This, of course, is in the context of Hispanic immigration from Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Panama, etc. There is also a rather base assumption that “anti-gang” co-operation with ICE will somehow resolve the problem of illegal immigrants residing in the United States, with no indication or resolution for those coming through our airports from say, Indian, Chinese, Irish, English, German, Turkish, South African, Australian, Polish, Russian, Italian, or Brazilian descent.
In short, this is an immigration solution from a perspective that is aimed directly at Hispanic immigrants, not Indian or Chinese ones. Even worse, the solution comes from a source that is illiterate at best when it comes to the dynamics of Central American politics and the source of Hispanic immigration.
There are other shortfalls. The condition of refugees, long-standing English common law of free men and free soil, the cost of such a program (including the cost of a Mexican-American wall), the failure to address the open border with Canada, and the abdication of any coherent drug control policy.
Worse still, there is zero reflection on the cost to American civil liberties. Short of papers, what should every American citizen carry? How does E-verify comport with National ID Registration? If Americans rightly would never tolerate a National ID for our firearms, why should we tolerate a National ID for our person? What other populations could we round up with such a system as Trump’s advisors have imagined? What happens if the Mexican government is destabilized to the point where the cartels effectively run entire regions of northern Mexico? What happens if our #3 trading partner (behind Canada and China) collapses?
Perhaps the worst element in all of this is the immediate branding of anyone in favor of immigration reform as being in favor of amnesty, cheap labor, or open borders. It’s a cheap sort of slander directed, not towards its critics, but towards the masses behind the leaders to keep the mob moving forward. Sure it will work… at least, for a time.
A mildly intellectually honest look forward demonstrates that Trump’s way forward isn’t a way forward at all — it’s a strategic retreat with no path to victory. Even if Trump’s wildest dreams were to be implemented, what is the result? The implosion of a major trade partner, a rather expensive yet useless wall, an epidemic of violence as drug cartels redouble their efforts, the suspension of work visas that tell the best and brightest to go elsewhere, the mass surrender of civil liberties to a national database, the forfeiture of liberties long held by English common law, and worse of all? The treatment by our American government of every minority as a potential criminal.
Trump merely offered a solution without vital context. Those are typically the most short-sighted and dangerous of solutions, especially when they come on a wave of populist sentiment.
UPDATE: Apparently we are not alone in surmising the consequences of Trump’s police state policies, as The Federalist succinctly summarizes:
In the plan, which was briefly pulled from Trump’s website, he promises to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, triple the number of ICE workers and have them cooperate with local gang task forces, mandate nationwide e-verify, return all criminals to their home countries, install a policy of detention rather than “catch and release,” and defund sanctuary cities, among other measures. To satisfy the “they took our jobs” crowd, he details plans to put American workers first through a series of bureaucratic hoops.
In short, the great conservative savior who wants to “Make America Great Again” primarily plans to do so by creating vast new swathes of bureaucracy and swelling the police state.
Of note, immigration is the only position paper Trump has issued thus far.
UPDATE x2: Just in case you were wondering whether or not the populists truly gave a damn about life:
Sixty one million abortions… and this is what comes from the populist right.
Quite the message to send to pro-lifers, wouldn’t you say?
UPDATE x3: Meanwhile, the folks over at NOVATownHall think we have a good thing going here… and besides, if we don’t restrict immigration (legal and illegal):
Meanwhile, we are to look the other way as our streets are littered with trash, and female genital mutilation and honor killings happen right here in the USA. If we do not arrest this quasi-open borders policy then I predict that within the century, our nation will break up into regional entities, along broad racial and ethnic lines. Just look at the trouble in Baltimore, Detroit, St Louis (Ferguson) and in Minnesota (importing millions of Somalis). Or simply look to the UK or France to see where we are headed if we continue down this road. Every nation can stand a little diversity, but the amount of immigration we have seen in recent years will become toxic.
Now that’s a new one.
UPDATE x4: The good folks over at Reason noted that Trump’s immigration plan is a significant increase in the size and scope of the federal government — as in 10,000 new federal employees sort of increase (with no plan on how to pay for them):
People who describe themselves as conservatives shouldn’t need to be reminded of this, but such a plan would be economically ruinous if implemented. It ignores the considerable benefits of immigration and immigrant workers. The overwhelming consensus among economists is that immigrant labor is a huge boon to the economy—boosting wages, creating jobs, and lowering the price of goods. When the government prevents immigrants from doing the jobs they want to do, it slows down the engine of economic growth. Again, conservatives must understand this on some level, given that they can typically be found lamenting that government regulation is killing the economy. They know that EPA compliance kills jobs. Labor-related regulatory compliance isn’t any different.
Reason draws some parallels to Trump’s protectionism to the one, the only, progressive darling Bernie Saunders.
Conservatives feel the Bern in Trump.
UPDATE x5: Ben Domenech over at The Federalist doubles down on what he terms a clown immigration plan:
This immigration plan is a perfect example of what Scott Adams has described as Trump’s clown genius ability to use intentional exaggeration to provide anchors for your brain, and persuade your subconscious to think things you would never originally think. Trump’s plan involves the deportation of millions of people, the seizure of money sent back to Mexico by illegal immigrants, and an end to birthright citizenship. Nowhere in this white paper is the how of what Trump would do addressed. Not the massive new hiring of a force to displace millions of people, many of whom are young citizens who have Constitutional rights; not the invasion of privacy necessary for the government to open every parcel sent to Mexico and investigate every wire transfer sent there or elsewhere lest the source be illegal; not the fact that ending birthright citizenship will require a Constitutional amendment. Trump’s white paper just says he will do it in three sentences, one of which is “End birthright citizenship.”
That tricky part of the how seems to be the question the nativist wing of the GOP doesn’t want to address — or doesn’t care to address.