Why Has the Trump Campaign Gone Quiet on Immigration?

By David Seminara on October 29, 2020

At a time when countries around the world have rediscovered the utility of secure borders, immigration has become this election's invisible issue.

Border Patrol agents apprehended 54,771 migrants crossing the U.S. border with Mexico last month — the highest figure for September since 2006 — but this news was barely covered by journalists who consistently downplay stories illustrating lawlessness on the border.

And at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is ascendant, the national media ignored the recent killing of Houston Sargent Harold Preston and the wounding of his partner, Officer Courtney Waller, both African-Americans, by Elmer Manzano, an illegal alien from El Salvador with a lengthy rap sheet. Preston was a 41-year veteran of the department and was just two weeks from his retirement. His life mattered, but inconvenient stories like this one don't fit the narrative Black Lives Matter and the mainstream media are promoting and are thus ignored.

The immigration issue deserves more attention because border policy impacts how we proceed on healthcare, the economy, the budget, the environment, crime, schools, coronavirus prevention, foreign policy, and a host of other issues. The Biden-Harris immigration platform represents the most liberal approach to border enforcement in living memory, but the candidates have barely been asked about it. What did Kamala Harris mean when she likened ICE agents to the KKK during a 2018 confirmation hearing in the Senate? How can we afford to provide healthcare to illegal aliens, as both Biden and Harris have pledged? These types of questions have gone unasked, as the press has probably correctly surmised that immigration is a losing issue for Democrats.

Democrats argue on the one hand that the economy is in shambles, but on the other, they're calling for an increase in guestworker visas and a number of other policy measures that could dramatically increase immigration numbers. The Left also warns that we're facing a climate emergency caused by mankind's consumption patterns. Bernie Sanders admitted in 2019 that population control is an important means of addressing the climate crisis, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned whether having children is still ethical given the climate situation. And so the Left explicitly claims that the economy is producing too few jobs and tacitly admits that states that tend to attract the most migrants, like California, Florida, and Texas, are overpopulated, but still argues that America must welcome many more immigrants than the million-plus per year we already take in legally.

Vice President Biden, Sen. Harris, and several other Democratic candidates signaled at the primary debates with a show of hands that they were on board for two of the most reckless immigration policy proposals floated in decades: decriminalizing illegal border crossings and free healthcare for illegal aliens. Biden has promised to undo nearly all of President Trump's immigration orders, repealing travel bans, restoring DACA, welcoming migrants likely to become public charges, and making it easier for asylum seekers to stay here permanently. Biden has also proposed a 100-day moratorium on deportations, along with pledges to substantially increase refugee admittances and boost the number of employment-based green cards. He supports amnesty and a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal aliens, including those with drunk driving convictions.

Biden's running mate, who most believe will play an outsized role in shaping policy and could become president if Biden becomes ill or dies, is even further left than he is on immigration. As a presidential candidate, Harris promised to sign an executive order that, by her reckoning, would have provided a path to citizenship for some six million illegal aliens. In May, she co-sponsored the Immigration Enforcement Moratorium Act, legislation that would halt deportations indefinitely, even for illegal alien criminals convicted of serious crimes, including homicide, sexual assaults against children, and so on. And in 2012, while serving as California's attorney general, she announced that law enforcement officers in the state could ignore Obama administration requests to hold undocumented immigrants, arguing that they weren't obligated to comply with a federal law-enforcement program called Secure Communities. Wouldn't it be nice to know what other federal laws she thinks are okay to ignore?

Regarding the wall, Biden has refused to answer questions about whether he would take down sections of it he voted to build in 2006, but his running mate has called the wall Trump's "medieval vanity project", so all options could be on the table. Harris has also backed the idea of providing $2,000 monthly stimulus checks to everyone in the United States, including undocumented immigrants.

Trump made immigration enforcement the centerpiece of his campaign in 2016 and won. A Washington Post poll taken in late April showed that 65 percent of Americans, including 49 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Hispanics supported blocking nearly all immigration into the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Trump campaign isn't drawing much attention to his rivals' liberal immigration platform, perhaps at the advice of immigration doves like Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. According to the Wall Street Journal, immigration was the 4th most mentioned issue in Trump's 2016 ads, but this year it barely cracks the top 10. I live in Florida and have seen hundreds of Trump ads; none have referenced immigration.

The issue wasn't mentioned in the first two debates. In the final debate, moderator Kristen Welker asked Trump about the administration's now scrapped child separation policy, and hectored Biden about why so many migrants were deported during the Obama-Biden years. The tone implied that our immigration policies are too harsh and Trump failed to redirect the conversation toward how far left the Democratic Party has drifted on the issue.

During my career in the U.S. Foreign Service, I interviewed thousands of foreign nationals for visas, and I saw how application numbers sometimes ebbed and flowed depending on how the political winds were blowing. It's been a dreadful year for our country, and so it's easy for us to forget that there are many millions from developing countries who are still waiting for a chance to live here.

A Blue Wave in November would likely result in a broad amnesty for millions living here illegally, but perhaps more consequentially, it would inspire untold numbers of additional migrants, lured by the prospect of free health care and other benefits, at a time when millions of Americans are out of work and state and federal coffers are strained. The pandemic has reminded us of why we have borders; you would think the president and his Republican colleagues would want to remind voters why this isn't the time to elect leaders who'd like to welcome the world to our shores.

Topics: Politics