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What Donald Trump's Immigration Plan Means

The Republican presidential candidate's proposals to stop illegal immigration go outside the mainstream of both parties.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump released his immigration plan on Sunday afternoon, offering his first formal proposal of the campaign. Since he announced his presidential run, Trump’s tough talk and controversial comments on the subject have stirred passions on both sides of the issue.

Now that he’s started to lay out more details about the policies he’d pursue, here’s a closer look at his plan:

What is Trump actually proposing?

Trump has three main ideas, all of which are outside the mainstream in both political parties. He is demanding that the Mexican government pay for a wall that prevents its residents from coming to the United States. If Mexico will not build the wall, Trump would take a number of steps to punish the country, such as increasing fees and potentially even canceling visas of Mexicans who want to come to the U.S.

Secondly, he would end the policy by which anyone who is born in the United States is automatically a citizen, which Trump says is “biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” This would require an amendment to the Constitution, since the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”

Third, Trump would greatly reduce the number of visas and green cards issued to non-citizens so they can work in the U.S. Such a policy, in Trump’s words, would force American employers to “hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers.”

Trump’s formal plan does not include a call for the deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, although he has said he favors that idea as well.

How is this different from the Obama administration?

Trump's proposals are extremely different than the president's. As the Obama administration has noted, the U.S. is not suffering from a flood of illegal immigrants. The number of undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center, has remained stable for the last five years, after peaking at 12.2 million in 2007. It is now an estimated 11.3 million. President Obama does not favor building a wall or fence between the U.S. and the Mexico.

The administration supported the 2013 comprehensive immigration bill that would have increased the number of people who get H-1B visas, those that go to workers who are considered to have specialized skills that the U.S. needs. Trump wants to limit that program.

Obama supports birthright citizenship. And while some Latino officials have argued his administration deports too many people, the president does not support mass deportations.

How does this affect actual people?

Trump’s overall proposals, if enacted, would make it more difficult for Mexicans and other immigrants to enter the U.S., get jobs here and remain in the U.S if they do come through the traditional immigration process.

A Trump presidency would have a deep impact on the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants but he argues that getting rid of undocumented immigrants will force American companies to make conditions better for those who are native-born.

How is this different from other Republican proposals?

Most of the other Republican candidates have not released detailed immigration plans. But Jeb Bush has, and he and Trump have vastly different views on immigration. Both want to crack down on “sanctuary cities,” the term for cities that have policies designed to shelter and limit the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

Bush though favors a pathway to legalization for the undocumented, which Trump opposes. The former Florida governor would not seek a large-scale deportation.

“There is no rational plan to deport millions of people that the American people would support. It would disrupt communities and families and could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars,” says Bush’s immigration policy paper.

He does not support the creation of a large border wall, instead favoring more increased use of technology like drones to prevent illegal crossings. Bush has suggested high-skilled immigrants create America jobs in part by starting new companies, and he does not want to decrease their numbers.

Bush does not favor ending birthright citizenship. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another GOP candidate, has suggested birthright citizenship is a policy that should be reconsidered, although he is not a firm opponent of it like Trump.

How will this proposal help him win the primary/election and the general election? Could it actually hurt his chances of winning?

Trump’s proposals only illustrate the obvious differences between the mogul and both more moderate Republicans like Bush and the Democrats.

If Trump is trying to appeal to conservative activists in states like Iowa, this plan could help him. He is now firmly in the camp of conservatives like Iowa U.S. Rep Steve King, a Republican who is perhaps the strongest opponent of illegal immigration in Congress. And in actually releasing a detailed policy plan, Trump is signaling to fellow Republicans that he wants to be considered a serious candidate.

This plan positions him well to appeal to Tea Party Republicans who favored Rick Santorum in 2012 and are wary of the more pro-immigration Bush. But the proposal will make the Republican establishment even more determined to prevent Trump from winning the primary.

For a general election, if Trump ran against Hillary Clinton or another Democrat, his opponent would use this plan to paint Trump as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino. It would severely complicate his prospects for victory.

Can This Plan Become Law?

Most of Trump’s plan has no chance of becoming law. Constitutional amendments are almost never adopted, so ending birthright citizenship is deeply unrealistic. The U.S. could attempt to build some kind of border wall, but few Republicans in Congress support this idea and it is opposed by virtually all Democrats. The Mexican government is almost certain not to be paid for it. Mass deportations of illegal immigrants are also unlikely.

Trump has two more plausible ideas. Some labor unions are wary of the growing number of foreign workers in the U.S., arguing American companies are too eager to seek employees from other countries instead of raising wages. Some limits on foreign work visas could be adopted. And even some Democrats, like California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, have raised concerns about sanctuary cities. The federal government could threaten to strip funds it sends to cities if those localities don’t cooperate with national immigration policies.