Philadelphia Inquirer, August 20, 2015
Donald Trump's immigration program is realistic and sensible, and it makes him a serious presidential candidate
Trump's political appeal is to that segment of the American electorate that believes it is being lied to by the political establishment. The establishment and its candidates are telling us that if some immigration is good, then more immigration is always better, even though large numbers of American workers are feeling trapped by stagnant wages and job insecurity, if they have a job at all.
Economists puzzle over why wages are stagnant even as the economy expands, corporate profits increase, and the stock market regularly hits new highs. Many Americans are concluding that corporate profits and the stock market are high because wages are stagnant, the result of a labor surplus that produces job insecurity. Further, in the compelling new book Rise of the Robots by Silicon Valley futurist Martin Ford, the author warns us that the accelerating technology revolution, including artificial intelligence, big data, and robotics, threatens a jobless future for more Americans.
Trump's attention-getting hyperbole characterizing illegal Mexican immigrants as murderers and rapists taps into the concerns of many Americans about accelerating immigration. And his rhetoric seemed validated in July when three high-profile murders of American women, two in California and one in Ohio, were allegedly committed by illegal Mexican immigrants. These men should not have been in the country, and their illegal presence was known to both state and federal law enforcement. But the authorities declined to deport these individuals because of municipal sanctuary policies in California or pursuant to Obama administration "prosecutorial discretion" guidelines in Ohio.
Trump's immigration policy paper starts with three principles: First, a nation without defensible borders is not a nation. Second, under our Constitution, properly enacted laws should be enforced. Third, the purpose of immigration law is to improve jobs, wages, and security for Americans.
The policy paper on Trump's campaign website offers a list of practical immigration reforms in addition to a wall on our southern border, including:
- Mandatory removal of all "criminal aliens," definition to be specified.
- Requiring now optional E-Verify Internet identity checks for all hiring and employment in the United States to prevent illegals from taking jobs.
- Defunding sanctuary cities like Philadelphia that won't cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement.
- Criminal penalties for overstaying a temporary visa, which is now just a civil violation.
- Ending birthright citizenship for children of illegal aliens.
- Replacing the J-1 jobs program for foreign youths with a jobs program for American young people.
- Shifting taxpayer funding from the resettlement of foreign refugees in the United States to improving the lives of underprivileged American children.
- Putting American workers first by obliging employers to hire from the domestic labor pool before more visas are issued for foreign workers.
Trump's plan puts immigration — and himself — at the center of presidential politics. All of his establishment rivals will have to address and discuss his positions. And if he can stick to and further develop his positions, American voters may finally have an opportunity to directly decide the direction of U.S. immigration policy.