If you thought Trump was softening on immigration, think again. And you would have good reason to think he had softened his stand if you had heard his speech in Mexico alongside the Mexican President. But no. The following evening after his morning meeting with Mexican President Pena Nieto, Trump gave his immigration policy speech in Phoenix and there was no sign of the softening that his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, had promised. She even said she doubted that he’d say anything about a deportation force. But she was wrong – he did. In fact, he doubled down on the tough rhetoric, but there really wasn’t much by way of new policy in his immigration plan. Even mass deportation isn’t new; President Obama has deported more immigrants that any other President. Much of what he calls his immigration plan is a promise to enforce or expand existing laws and resources.
He plans to build a wall like we have never seen before, a beautiful, impenetrable wall with sensors above and below ground. And Mexico will pay for it, even though Pena Nieto said emphatically in their private meeting that he would not. The wall concept is actually not a new idea. In 2006, legislators approved the building of 700 miles of fencing between the 2,000 mile U.S. Mexican border at an initial cost of more than a billion. Fencing is nothing new. While a barrier concept is nothing new, walling is and would be much more expensive than fencing. As usual, Trump gave no specifics. Will he tear down the old fence or wall it in? How much will it cost? Has he even gotten an estimate? The 700-mile fence cost upwards of 6 billion in 2006. A 2000 mile modern high tech wall would easily cost 200 billion or more. 200 billion would be better spent on domestic infrastructure projects. You could repair a lot of bridges with that and still have money left over to invest in clean energy projects AND upgrade the power grid. But seriously folks, how can he force the Mexicans to pay for it? He can’t. Now he could start a trade war with the Mexicans, but that would hurt both countries. And they can’t pay for it anyway. Half of Mexico’s population lives in poverty. And while border security is an issue, the wall isn’t even necessary. Some border patrol officers think the existing fence and the other assets in place now are sufficient to deal with illegal border crossings which are at HISTORIC lows.
He plans to block funding for sanctuary cities that are, incidentally, within their constitutional rights not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. And how would he cut off funding to them? He can’t without Congress. The GOP tried in late October of 2015, but fell short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate. Sanctuary cities are not hotbeds for crime. In fact, the murder rate in San Francisco, one of some 300 odd sanctuary cities is much lower than in the non-sanctuary cities of Dallas, Ft. Worth, Columbus and Jacksonville. Studies show that immigrants on the balance commit fewer crimes than the native population.
Mass deportation. Well, President Obama has done a pretty good job of that in his 8 years in office. So that would not be something new. But the President is practical and reasonable. He knows he can’t deport 11 million people. First, it would be impossible even if he wanted to as Trump has called for. Second, it would be inhumane to do so, to break up families and to send individuals back to their home countries who have nothing to do with crime and who have been working, law-abiding residents contributing to their communities and paying taxes. Yes, paying sale tax, property taxes, tolls, and fees just like American citizens and in many cases ALSO paying income taxes, which the IRS allows them to do with a tax identification number.
Trump’s entire campaign is based on fear mongering and race baiting. He wants Americans to believe that to make America great again, we have to get rid of immigrants, ban an entire religion, refuse to help war-torn refugees resettle, break away from our European alliances, not rule out the use of nuclear weapons, ban the press, privatize American schools and turn them into businesses, run the country like the business it is not, align with hate groups, and snuggle up to a Russian despot. This is a plan to divide the United States, and to make it a frightening place. It will be exceptional, but not in a good way, one in which people will say that they’ll visit any place except the U.S. Lady Liberty would be ashamed.