Trump’s immigration folly

I think it’s fair to describe Power Line as hard-line on immigration. Back when Marco Rubio was plugging amnesty on shows like Fox News talk shows, with little push back and few if any appearances by opponents of amnesty, we were speaking out against the Schumer-Rubio legislation and I was harshly critical of Senator Rubio.

But hard-line is one thing; foolish is another. Which brings me to Donald Trump’s immigration plan.

Aspects of the plan have considerable merit, as John has pointed out. Significantly increasing the number of ICE officers; enforcing the E-verify system nationwide; mandatory return of all criminal aliens; detention of all captured illegals leading to deportation; and defunding of sanctuary cities — all of these proposals make a great deal of sense.

Ending birthright citizen isn’t an inherently foolish idea, but is probably a fool’s errand. Birthright citizenship is a terrible policy, but under prevailing law, it’s a constitutional right. If Trump wants to try to convince the Supreme Court that prior decisions ;are wrong and/or push for a constitutional amendment, God bless him. But he would almost surely be wasting his time.

The part of Trump’s proposal that’s truly foolish, in my view, is mass deportation. Trump’s heart is in the right place. He has consistently said he wants the “bad” illegal immigrants out and wants to “try and work something out” for the good ones.

Unfortunately, what Trump has worked out is a proposal to deport en masse as many illegal immigrants as possible and then set up a system for enabling the good ones to return. This would be a pointless exercise.

Illegal immigrant who have committed crimes have self-identified as undeserving of being here. Deportation is the remedy.

As for the rest, some may also be “bad” but if they have stayed out of trouble, we cannot identify them as such. In the overwhelming majority of cases, this problem of identification would persist once (under Trump’s plan) they have been deported. What’s the point, then, of kicking out millions of illegal immigrants who committed no crime (other than their illegal entry) and then allowing them back in?

The disadvantages of doing so are manifest. First, it would create a great and inhumane upheaval for the immigrants.

Second, it would likely devastate the agricultural industry. The Washington Post points to California where illegal immigrants comprise one-third to one-half of the agricultural workforce, and which produces more than half of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S.

In the absence of illegal immigrants, would American workers fill the void. I don’t think so.

According to the Post, the share of the workforce occupied by illegal immigrants in California is much greater than the share of unemployed in that state. This is also true in Nevada, Texas, and New Jersey, says the Post.

In any event, I think it’s fanciful to imagine the unemployed (or those who have quit the workforce) flocking to fields of California to pick fruit.

Third, Trump’s proposal would constitute an enormous burden on the U.S. budget. The cost of deporting millions would be huge. The cost of re-processing the same millions to determine whether they are good would also be quite substantial.

To impose these disadvantages in order to conduct a pointless exercise is beyond foolish.

I agree with Jay Cost that the GOP needs a candidate who takes a hard line on illegal immigration, but is nuanced enough to avoid the draconian measure of mass deportation. Unfortunately, none of the leading GOP candidates seems yet to pulled off this modest feat.


Books to read from Power Line