I've been watching with a certain amused fascination as various organizations and news media engage in what my colleague David North has wittily called "Trumpology" on the subject of immigration, to try to determine where he really stands on the issue.
For instance, The Hill published a piece titled "Five Burning Questions about Trump's immigration plan" and Law360 put out an article titled "Parsing Donald Trump's Positions on Immigration" (the full item is behind a paywall).
It seems to me that, with the exception of the brief wobble following his meeting with Hispanic leaders and advisers, he has been pretty clear on his positions and gotten increasingly more so with his formal policy speech on the issue. This stands in contrast to Hillary Clinton, who (other than her promise to outdo Barack Obama in his unconstitutional exercise of "executive action") has been extraordinarily obtuse.
We know that in order to assist American and lawful resident workers find decent employment, Trump has promised to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement rivaled only by the Iran deal in its deceptiveness, and to revisit other such agreements to determine whether they actually help or hurt the American economy and American workers. (Remember Ross Perot's oracular pronouncement that the North American Free Trade Agreement would result in a "giant sucking sound" as jobs and industries moved to Mexico to avail themselves of cheap labor while maintaining immediate duty-free access to U.S. markets?)
Trump has also promised to end abuse of various "short-term" worker visa programs that have spun out of control through the collusion of Department of Homeland Security immigration benefits adjudication leaders ("get to yes") with greedy corporate entities, especially in the so-called STEM professions where industry leaders anxious for cheap foreign labor have invented the false notion of a shortage of competent available workers.
We know that Trump has famously said he will put a halt to illegal border crossings through building of a "Great Wall" on America's southern border, and that Mexico will pay for it — something Mexican officials have scoffed at, although at least once he has said that his plan was to tax remittances sent from illegal workers to their homes in Mexico. This is something over which the Mexican government would have no control and is in fact a great idea that writers at the Center for Immigration Studies have put forward or endorsed in past blogs (see here and here). Why, after all, should our government be turning a blind eye toward the untaxed outflow of $50 billion yearly from our economy into foreign countries, never to be seen again?
He has promised to triple the number of agents handling immigration enforcement duties in the interior of the United States, to counterbalance the effectiveness of border controls and handle the massive number of illegal aliens, nearly half of whom are visa abusers and thus never cross the border illegally or risk apprehension by the Border Patrol.
Trump has suggested he would be amenable to amnesty in the limited circumstance of illegal aliens who enlist for military service. I understand the sentiment, while disagreeing vigorously with the premise, about which I have written previously (see here and here). There is no shortage of Americans and lawful residents who enlist — in fact, the military has had the liberty in recent years of tightening their requirements to accept only the best qualified — and many citizens and residents are rejected for lack of skills or education. Why, then, would the military have need to reach out to illegal aliens who often are of limited literacy in their own languages, let alone English, whose command of English may be even more limited, and who often lack identifiable skills for which there is a military shortage? While I disagree with Trump's position, at least there is clarity on where he stands.
We know that Trump has taken a very strong stand against criminal aliens; unlike his opponent in the presidential race, he has even made a point several times of having the relatives of people killed by criminal aliens join him at rallies and tell the story of their lost loved ones.
And we also know that Trump has said repeatedly that his administration would carefully examine and tighten up the vetting processes for refugees and asylees generally, and for Muslims from terror-ridden countries in particular, and even shut down the programs if they cannot be handled responsibly and in a way that keeps Americans safe.
Finally, I would note that in his speech, Trump has specifically endorsed the Davis-Oliver Act, an excellent piece of legislation that has been pending for a considerable time in both chambers of Congress. Although the two bills are similar, they are not identical, the Senate version having been tweaked a bit. I have previously analyzed both the Senate version and the House version, under its prior iteration when named the SAFE Act (the name of the bill was changed to honor Michael Davis and Danny Oliver, two deputy sheriffs killed by illegal aliens).
Anyone wanting to understand Trump's vision for immigration need only look at the details of those worthy-but-languishing bills to get a very clear picture of what he intends. I would only add that if Trump were elected the bills once again need to be tweaked before passage, because in the intervening years, activist tribunals including the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Third and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals have undermined basic notions, such as what constitutes a "crime of violence", what constitutes a "crime involving moral turpitude", and what constitutes "good moral character". Congress will want to re-balance the scales in those and other key areas. What better place to do it than in the Davis-Oliver Act?