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    The battle for Trump's soul on immigration

    By W. JAMES ANTLE III • 1/7/17 12:01 AM

    Washington is gearing up for a big fight on immigration this year and the border lines will be drawn inside Donald Trump's White House. His incoming Cabinet offers the full spectrum of Republican views on the issue, and all will contend for the president's heart.

    Trump was elected president on a promise to better enforce the country's immigration laws and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out. It was part of his broader pitch to look out for American interests first, on everything from trade and jobs to foreign policy and national security.

    "To all the politicians, donors and special interests, hear these words from me and all of you today," Trump said in a major immigration policy speech after winning the Republican presidential nomination last year. "There is only one core issue in the immigration debate, and that issue is the well-being of the American people."

    It was one of the main reasons he won the election, advocates say.

    "Donald Trump was swept into office by championing the cause of American workers who have seen their jobs and wages steadily eroded by a combination of factors, including an immigration system that allows employers to exploit low-wage workers from other countries," said Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors lower immigration levels.

    Trump himself acknowledged how important immigration was to the crowds packing his rallies. He told the New York Times, "You know, if it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, 'We will build the wall!' and they go nuts."


    Trump was elected president on a promise to better enforce the country's immigration laws and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out. (AP Photo)

    But Republican elected officials not only have significant disagreements over how to resolve the immigration crisis, they differ over the nature of the problem. Is the issue merely illegal immigration, to be dealt with by tougher enforcement, some form of legal status, increased opportunities for legal immigration or a combination of the three? Does the sheer size of our immigrant inflows, both legal and illegal, present cultural, economic and national security challenges that must be addressed by reducing the number of newcomers?

    Republicans who picked the second set of options when describing the immigration problem were mostly shut out of President George W. Bush's administration and didn't have much of a voice in the Republican-controlled Senates of that time period either. Yet they were well-represented in the House, which is why Bush-era comprehensive immigration reform went nowhere, and were starting to notch victories in down-ballot races.

    One of those Republican immigration hawks was Lou Barletta, who was elected mayor of predominantly Democratic Hazelton, Pa., with 66 percent of the vote. Barletta vowed to make Hazelton "one of the toughest places in the United States" for illegal immigrants. He pushed a law allowing the city to deny business permits to companies that hired illegal aliens and fine landlords who housed them.

    Barletta twice ran for Congress during the Bush administration. Finally, during the 2010 midterm election backlash against President Obama, he won, unseating a 13-term Democratic incumbent. He promptly got to work on legislation rescinding federal funding of "sanctuary cities" that shield illegal immigrants from enforcement, which broke through as a major issue in the 2016 campaign. Not coincidentally, Barletta was an early supporter of Trump last year.

    Such Republicans now have a place at the table with Trump. Barletta himself is a member of the Trump transition team. The most important immigration restrictionist in Trump's inner circle is Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. The nominee for attorney general spent much of his past few years in the Senate urging his Republican colleagues to become less employer-friendly and more worker-friendly, at least on the issues of trade and especially immigration.

    At the opening of the last Congress, Sessions wrote a memo rebuking the failed 2013 Gang of Eight immigration deal. "That bill — the culmination of a $1.5 billion lobbying effort — doubled the influx of foreign workers to benefit corporate lobbyists, offered sweeping amnesty to benefit illegal immigrants, and collapsed enforcement to benefit groups in the Democrat political machine that advocate for open borders," Sessions wrote.

    "But for American citizens," he continued, "the legislation offered nothing except lower wages, higher unemployment, and a heavier tax burden." Sessions described "a period of record, uncontrolled immigration to the United States; a dramatic rise in the number of persons receiving welfare; and a steep erosion in middle class wages," complaining that the only reforms on Washington's agenda would "remove what few immigration controls are left in order to expand the record labor supply even further."


    Republicans grapple over whether the issue is merely illegal immigration, to be dealt with by tougher enforcement, some form of legal status, increased opportunities for legal immigration or a combination of the three. (AP Photo)

    Sessions' views ran counter to the Republican donor class but received fulsome praise in Breitbart, the conservative news site under the direction of Stephen Bannon, who shared the Alabama Republican's desire for a more populist, nationalist conservatism. They also gained a respectful hearing in the pages of less Trump-friendly outlets, like the Weekly Standard, a sister publication of the Washington Examiner.

    A year before the Republican primaries, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum were all to some extent sounding like Sessions on immigration. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had abandoned the Gang of Eight and was arguing the need to protect our borders from the Islamic State now superseded the imperatives of comprehensive immigration reform.

    Sessions ultimately chose Trump as his presidential candidate and the Republican primary electorate concurred. In turn, Trump adopted Sessions' formal immigration position as his own. His website devoted to the topic echoed Sessions' call to "[e]stablish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first."

    Bannon will soon be the chief political strategist on the White House staff. Sessions will join him in the administration, pending confirmation by a Republican-controlled Senate without possibility of a Democratic filibuster. Sessions alumnus Rick Dearborn will be deputy chief of staff for policy and Stephen Miller a senior adviser to the president for policy. Miller is an immigration restriction true believer.

    The other side of the wall

    With so many of their own on the inside, especially compared to previous Republican administrations, why are immigration hawks so worried about whether Trump will follow through?

    Conservative columnist Ann Coulter began panning Trump's Cabinet choices as too conventionally Republican before the end of November. The blowback intensified after immigration hawks didn't get their preferred Homeland Security secretary nominee. They like retired Marine Gen. John Kelly but they wanted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who could still join the administration as a restrictionist "immigration czar.")

    Liberal blogger Mickey Kaus, a single-issue immigration Trump backer, warned that "[i]f Trump backs down on the clear policies in his big Aug. 31 immigration speech … he will dissolve his base of support." As Trump was vetting running mates who disagreed with him on immigration, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies acknowledged, "I have restrictionist concerns about Trump himself."


    Harvard economist George Borjas makes the case that immigration at its current high rate and disproportionately low skill levels benefits employers at the expense of workers, especially at the lower end of the earning spectrum. (AP Photo)

    Incoming Vice President Mike Pence angered enforcement-first House Republicans when he proposed an immigration compromise that would have allowed illegal immigrants to apply for readmission to the United States through private sector job placement centers. Critics called this "touchback amnesty."

    Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, has lobbied for comprehensive immigration reform bills derided as amnesty by opponents since at least 2006. This includes the bipartisan legislation backed by Ted Kennedy and John McCain that was ultimately blocked by House Republicans and the Gang of Eight.

    Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis slammed Trump's campaign comments about Muslim immigration. Asked about how they were received in the Middle East, the retired Marine general replied, "They think we've completely lost it."

    Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for secretary of education, complained to reporters about Trump and mass deportations. She didn't seem to buy into the wall either. She told the Hill that the "notion that we put walls up around our nation is just not a tenable position."

    Elaine Chao, Trump's pick for secretary of transportation, has spoken favorably of comprehensive immigration reform in the past. As secretary of labor under President George W. Bush, Chao defended the administration's guest-worker proposals and "streamlining the process so that willing workers can efficiently be matched with employers ... [when] there are no willing U.S. workers."

    Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the designated secretary of energy, savaged Trump on immigration when the two were briefly rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. "Donald Trump the candidate is a sower of division, wrongly demonizing Mexican-Americans for political sport," Perry declared. "It is wrong to paint with a broad brush Hispanic men and women in this country who have fought and died for freedom from the Alamo to Afghanistan. He scapegoats Hispanics to appeal to our worst instincts, when we need a president who appeals to our best.

    "Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the know-nothing movement," Perry continued. "He espouses nativism, not conservatism." In 2012, Mitt Romney beat back Perry's push for the GOP presidential nomination by running to his right on immigration.


    "It makes no economic sense to spend trillions on welfare and jobless benefits for out-of-work Americans while bringing in foreign workers to fill jobs in their place," secretary of labor nominee Andrew Puzder said. (AP Photo)

    Most of these positions are fairly unimportant to immigration. But the secretary of labor job has a large immigration component and nominee Andrew Puzder is a fast food CEO with a long history of backing reforms that increase the number of low-wage immigrant workers in the United States.

    "We need to secure the border and then we need a rational plan for how to deal with the people here illegally and bring people in," Puzder told Fox Business in 2014. "Republicans want this issue to go away, and Democrats say they want to do something — it should be a bipartisan issue."

    "We're never going to deport more than 10 million people with families, friends, jobs and homes in our communities," Puzder wrote in a pro-Gang of Eight op-ed for the San Diego Tribune the year before that. "A policy requiring something that will never happen is a useless policy."

    Puzder joined Trump Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross in Michael Bloomberg's pro-immigration Partnership for a New American Economy. He also co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore saying, "We believe that deporting 11 million people is unworkable, and we hope in the end Mr. Trump comes to this same conclusion."

    Immigration hawks hope it is Puzder who changes his tune. The Trump transition team released a statement to that effect in December.

    "My job as a business person is to maximize profits for my company, employees and shareholders," Puzder said in the statement. "My job as the Secretary of Labor, if confirmed, is to serve U.S. citizen workers — that is my moral and constitutional duty. The public spoke loud and clear in this election, and delivered a mandate to protect American workers.

    "It makes no economic sense to spend trillions on welfare and jobless benefits for out-of-work Americans while bringing in foreign workers to fill jobs in their place," Puzder concluded.

    "No one really knows what Trump will do on immigration, but the people he's hiring are pretty pro-immigration," Republican strategist Liz Mair said.


    While he chanted "build the wall" at rallies, Trump told both his Hispanic advisory council and the New York Times editorial board they would be surprised at his humane approach on immigration. (AP Photo)

    Where he'll land

    The real cause for concern among immigration hardliners, and hope GOP comprehensive reformers, involves lingering questions about where Trump's true allegiances lie. His message on trade, for example, has been consistent since at least the 1980s. On immigration, he is more of a convert.

    Trump criticized Romney for advocating "self-deportation" during the 2012 campaign. At various points after the election, he called the idea "mean-spirited," "maniacal" and "crazy." "It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote," Trump said. "He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country."

    Even during the campaign, Trump hesitated to criticize high-skilled immigration — Rubio took a harder line on the H-1B visa program during a Republican debate — and occasionally modified his pitch depending on the audience. While he chanted "build the wall" at rallies, Trump told both his Hispanic advisory council and the New York Times editorial board they would be surprised at his humane approach on immigration. He signaled for days after the Republican convention that he might soften his position before delivering a hardline immigration speech written by Miller and Bannon.

    Trump rarely mentioned lowering overall immigration numbers when he wasn't delivering an at least partially prepared speech. On the more hawkish side, he did often suggest he would do mass deportations — something never mentioned in his Sessionesque formal immigration plan. His talk of illegal immigrants going home, but the "good ones" swiftly returning, sounded more like Pence's touchback amnesty than Sessions' immigration proposals.

    The immigration restrictionists in Trump's coalition have a three-pronged critique of current policy focused on culture, national security and economics. While all three fit neatly into Trump's overall nationalism and "America First" viewpoint, his stump speeches indicated he had most completely internalized the national security argument.


    It remains to be seen whether Trump will seize the broader mandate Cotton, Sessions and other conservative immigration skeptics envision. (AP Photo)

    The economic camp is led by Harvard economist George Borjas, who makes the case that immigration at its current high rate and disproportionately low skill levels benefits employers at the expense of workers, especially at the lower end of the earning spectrum. Moreover, they argue that conservative champions of free markets and a light regulatory hand on business should want government policy to do something about it.

    "President-elect Trump now has a clear mandate not only to stop illegal immigration, but also to finally cut the generation-long influx of low-skilled immigrants that undermines American workers," wrote Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., in a New York Times op-ed, later adding, "Higher wages, better benefits and more security for American workers are features, not bugs, of sound immigration reform."

    Trump may build the wall, perhaps even taxing immigrants' remittances so he can plausibly claim Mexico is paying for it. But it remains to be seen whether he will seize the broader mandate Cotton, Sessions and other conservative immigration skeptics envision.

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/th...rticle/2611074
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    For those who doubt, just watch it happen. Doubting Thomases have been around for thousands of years.
    grandmasmad likes this.
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
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    MW
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    Trump may build the wall, perhaps even taxing immigrants' remittances so he can plausibly claim Mexico is paying for it. But it remains to be seen whether he will seize the broader mandate Cotton, Sessions and other conservative immigration skeptics envision.
    My excitement is understandably tempered due to years of empty rhetoric, disappointments, and traitorous turncoats. My senses have long since been dulled to political promises because so few of them that I actually find important seem to come to fruition. However, I remain hopeful that Trump will end up being all we have hoped for and all some have promised. I'd say the next 12-18 months should tell the story.

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

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