Mike Littwin: Donald Trump’s immigration bomb
August 20, 2015
OK, I admit it it, I'm a silver-lining kind of guy. And so when I read Donald Trump's round-up-the-illegals-and-ship-'em-out manifesto — a point-by-point policy paper to follow up on his illegal-immigrants-as-rapists commentary — I knew we were finally getting somewhere.
What it means is that the Donald, the leader in the GOP primary-polling clubhouse, is forcing Republicans to take a stand on what amounts to either immigration reform or low-grade insanity, or both. (Which do you think applies to Trump's first principle: "A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall on our southern border." I kept looking for a nation without borders is still a nation without a wall on the northern border.)
There is a point to this: Upsetting the GOP establishment — as he knew his plan would — fits neatly with Trump's strategy. For Trump, it's a two-fer, in which, say, Lindsey Graham will bash Trump for trying "to kill my party," and Trump will get to ask who exactly is Lindsey Graham and what is he polling?
But you can see Graham's point, even if you can't see his numbers.
Do Republican voters really want to round up 11 million illegal immigrants — just try to imagine the federal agents grabbing "illegal" kids hiding in the attic — send them to detention camps and then figure out where to ship them home? (Trump says the "good ones," a Trump term of art, would quickly return, but without answering the question of why the "good ones" would then have to leave in the first place.)
Do they really want the feds raiding the Western Union offices to seize money the construction workers and itinerant farm workers and hotel domestics are sending home to the children that didn't come to America?
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Do they really want to repeal the 14th Amendment or whatever it would take to end citizenship for babies born in America to undocumented mothers?
That's just the start. It seems that Trump may want to deport American-birthright children — you know, citizens — although it's not exactly clear that he does even if it were constitutional, which it obviously isn't. We'll get to that later.
Anyone — or at least anyone other than Trump's pal Ted Cruz — can tut-tut over the Trump rapist line and suggest that the Donald ought to stick to stuff he knows, like landing his helicopter at the Iowa State Fair and telling kids he's Batman. But how do you react to a plan that, according to Trump, was put in place with advice from Sen. Jeff Sessions and that sounds like something you hear on talk radio every single day?
Jeb Bush has a plan. Marco Rubio had one until he decided it wasn't exactly working out for him. But the Gang of 17 campaign is mostly about candidates using the words amnesty, security and wall in a single sentence.
But now a desperate Scott Walker, slipping in the polls, is semi-embracing the Trump plan, explaining that he had been talking about the wall long before Trump, saying that it worked for Israelis in keeping out Palestinians, which is something you may not have considered.
But the questions keep coming, and they get harder. When asked whether birthright citizenship should be ended, Walker put it this way: "Well, like I said, Harry Reid said it's not right for this country. I think that's something we should — yeah, absolutely going forward." Reid said that about 25 years ago and hasn't said it since. Walker's path, meanwhile, has gone in exactly the opposite direction.
The polling on all this is clear. Most Americans, and a majority of Republicans, favor some path to citizenship for most of those here without documents. In Colorado, we have special insight, having seen Tom Tancredo go belly up in each statewide race to which he brought the issue.
But Trump sees that this is a winning play for him, and he might be right — figuring that in the huge GOP field that there are just enough Republican voters who are looking for a candidate who is prepared to blame China, "stupid" American politicians and Mexican rapists for stealing their jobs. You'll get to hear it all in the next debate.
But even Trump can go too far. Or can he? In an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, he suggested that American-born children should be deported if their parents are illegal. Or did he?
Here's the relevant part of the interview:
Todd: You're going to deport children —
Trump: Chuck. No, no. We're going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together.
Todd: But you're going to keep them together out —
Trump: But they have to go. They have to go.
So, which is it? If they have to go, how do you keep families together when there are 4 million American children — according to a 2008 Pew Hispanic Center study — with at least one undocumented parent? To keep the families together, you'd have to either let millions of illegal-immigrant parents stay or make millions of American-citizen children go.
Trump wouldn't say which one he meant. But of course it doesn't matter because none of it will ever happen, sort of like Mitt Romney's plan for the 11 million to self-deport wouldn't happen. It's all fantasy.
He also didn't say what it would cost, another part of the fantasy. A piece in The Washington Post led me to a study by the right-leaning American Action Forum, which set out to learn just that. A quick search on the Google, and I learned that the study said it would take 20 years — assuming that 2 million illegal immigrants would leave right away and that the government could reasonably deport 400,000 a year — at a cost of $400 billion to $600 billion, not to mention the hundreds of billions more it would cost in lost GDP.
Of course, as anyone following the campaign knows, that wouldn't be a deal-breaker for the Donald. He'd make the Mexican government pay for it. And if they won't, well, he's really, really rich.