Donald Trump’s rhetoric on illegal immigration has helped push him to the top of the polls in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination. His rivals have only themselves to blame. Three of the leading contenders for the nomination — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker — have been soft or wobbly or both on the issue. Trump simply took advantage of the opening they provided.
But Trump himself is beginning to seem soft illegal immigrants. The Daily Caller notes that during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” yesterday, the tycoon appeared to back amnesty for some illegal immigrants.
Joe Scarborough asked Trump what he would do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country once America secured its southern border. After arguing the real number of illegal immigrants is much higher and saying the first thing America needs to do is “take the bad” illegal immigrants and “get them the hell out,” Trump sounded like he was open to providing some type of pathway to legalization for the remainder.
“And then the other ones — and I’m a very big believer in merit system, I have to tell you,” Trump said. “Because some of these people have been here, they’ve done a good job, you know, in some cases sadly they’ve been living under the shadows.”
“We have to do something,” he continued. “So whether it’s merit or whether it’s whatever, but I’m a believer in the merit system. If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out.”
Does Trump have in mind setting up a review board to determine which of the immigrants who have violated our immigration laws have “been outstanding”? I doubt it. More likely, he has in mind granting amnesty to illegal immigrants who, apart from violating immigration laws, have clean records — once we have secured our borders.
In fact, Trump said as much in June. According to CNN’s Chris Moody, when asked what he would do about the illegal immigrants already residing in the country once the border was secured, Trump replied, “give them a path.” A path to what? Trump didn’t say. Hopefully, he means a path to legalization, not to citizenship.
The idea of granting non-criminal illegal immigrants a path to legalization once the border has been secured may not be outrageous on its face. The problem, though, is that such amnesty provides a huge incentive for another wave of Central Americans to enter the country illegally, making it all the more difficult to keep the border secure. And we know that even once the border is secure, we cannot count of a Democratic administration to keep it that way.
But the issue here isn’t the merits. The issue is whether Donald Trump is a true hard liner on immigration. It appears that he is not.