Donald Trump’s immigration plan, which he laid out on Meet The Press on Sunday, is getting the expected backlash from immigration activists, but also from some conservative corners.
Mike Gonzalez, an immigration expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said while his organization agrees with some of what Trump said, it doesn’t accept all of his thinking.
“Trump is correct that immigration law is regularly ignored. I think a lot of people in both parties agree with that,” he said.
But while additional fencing may be helpful, “it’s not a silver bullet” and does not work in many places, said Gonzalez, a senior fellow at Heritage Foundation’s Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.
Additional technology and partnerships with Latin America to control illegal migration would be more effective, he said.
Trump laid out his immigration plan over the weekend, giving details first in an interview with NBC’s Meet The Press.
Trump touched on a number of issues, but much of his plans centers on the idea that all people illegally in the U.S “have to go,” and that he would build a wall on the border, which would be paid for by Mexico. He also said he wanted to do away with citizenship being automatically granted to people born in the U.S.
In his policy paper posted on his campaign web site, Trump said he would seize all money immigrants working here illegally send home – what is known as remittances. He also proposed subsidizing the wall cost with legal immigration fee increases on temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats, border crossing cards used by people who legally enter and exit the U.S. on a regular basis, on temporary workers visas and on fees charged at ports of entry to enter the U.S. from Mexico.
Gonzalez said the Trump plan “ignores the benefits of immigration.”
“A great deal of his immigration plan centers on imposing costs on legal immigration and legal trade and this will harm the U.S. economy and make illegal immigration more attractive, since legal immigration will be more expensive.”
Gonzalez said the U.S. “does need to consider the welfare of its workers, but we should not put restrictions on the flow of high-skilled workers that support the U.S. economy.”
He acknowledged Trump has struck a chord with Americans. A recent Rasmussen poll showed 80 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of immigrants as people who work hard to support their families, but 68 percent thought they should adopt America’s culture language and heritage, he said. A lot of people don’t think immigrants are adopting an attachment for American values and virtues, Gonzalez said.
“Many Americans are anxious about the nation being increasingly organized into groups and they feel that the old model of assimilating immigrants patriotically has been rejected by government elites in exchange for identity politics,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said assimilating patriotically meant welcoming immigrants as Americans not as groups.
"One way for this to happen is for schools to teach the full history of America, not a history distorted by being seen only through the lens of race, ethnicity, gender and class and by denigrating free markets by accusing them of exploiting workers," he said.
Many young immigrants have been pressing Congress to allow people not legally here to serve in the military, but legislation has been rebuffed. A number of legal immigrants have enlisted and served, which is allowed by law.
Separately, polling by Public Religion Research Institute showed that 57 percent of Republicans support a pathway to citizenship, and 26 percent say they should be identified and deported. The group also found nearly half of Republicans say newcomers from other countries threaten traditional American customs and values.
The Heritage Foundation listed in an email other problems with Trump’s plan:
_ The U.S. substantially reaps the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1993. Mexico is not taking advantage of the U.S. economically.
_ While Mexico does have legitimate security issues, there is no established policy or allocation of resources by the government of Mexico to “traffick” its own people.
_ Most illegal immigrants entering the U.S. illegally via Mexico originate in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
_ Mexico has been a strong partner in addressing the Central American immigration problem and has helped keep the situation of illegal migration from being worse.
_ Since the arrival of tens of thousands of children and families on the U.S.-Mexico border last summer, Mexico and Guatemala have been working to secure their border. “We should look at how the U.S. can assist them … if Mexico’s southern border is insecure, so is America’s.”
Alfonso Aguilar, director of the American Principles in Action’s Latino Partnership, said it is hard to take Trump’s immigration rhetoric seriously.
“A month ago, he was arguing for a path to legal status. Three years ago, he criticized Mitt Romney’s self-deportation policy as ‘maniacal’. And now he’s supportive of mass deportation?” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said Trump “may characterize himself as an anti-politician, but he’s certainly showcasing himself as a typical politician who says whatever is most politically expedient in the moment.”
Nevertheless, Trump has been the frontrunner of the Republican field, although there are many months to go before the first primaries next year.
On the other side of the immigration politics spectrum, Cristina Jimenez, director of United We Dream, called Trump’s policies “irrational,” “inhumane,” counter to the majority of American opinion and “morally wrong.”
“Much like Mitt Romney in 2012, Trump, and other Republicans as well, are promoting policies that only cater to the extreme right of the party, and guarantee that the GOP will lose Latino and immigrant vote in record numbers again,” said Jimenez, whose group advocates for young immigrants who entered or stayed in the U.S. illegally, many who did so with their parents.
The immigration advocacy group America’s Voice labeled Trump’s proposals xenophobic and radical.
The group said Trump's policies would result in immigration agents roaming Latino neighborhoods, U.S. citizen children having their citizenship and passports evoked, a sharp economic downturn because of the disruption to the labor market with the loss of immigrants workers and more.
“In short, it would turn out to be one of America’s darkest chapters,” America’s Voice founder Frank Sharry said in a statement.
“Trump has turned the election into a reality show and he excels at it,” Sharry said. He said the anti-immigrant rhetoric has gone from coded language to a “frontrunner throwing a match on the racialized fumes of modern-day nativism.”
NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Trump in his interview for Meet The Press “are we all part of a show? … Are we in a reality show?”
“This is not a reality,” Trump said. “This is the real deal.”