Last night, Donald Trump delivered his long awaited speech detailing his approach to immigration. You can read full text of his prepared remarks here.
I think it was a very good speech mainly because it gets Trump to where he needs to be substantively on immigration, and because of its tone — conciliatory towards Mexico, more sensitive than he been to the plight of illegal immigrants, but insistent on the need to stop future illegal immigration before considering a possible change in the status of illegals.
He began with his visit to Mexico which, as John says, was a political success. He praised Mexico and its president:
I have just landed having returned from a very important and special meeting with the President of Mexico – a man I like and respect very much, and a man who truly loves his country. Just like I am a man who loves the United States.
We agreed on the importance of ending the illegal flow of drugs, cash, guns and people across our border, and to put the cartels out of business.
We also discussed the great contributions of Mexican-American citizens to our two countries, my love for the people of Mexico, and the close friendship between our two nations.
It was a thoughtful and substantive conversation. This is the first of what I expect will be many conversations in a Trump Administration about creating a new relationship between our two countries.
Trump then turned to the need for immigration reform. He delivered a stinging indictment of the current system which, he said, “serves the needs of wealthy donors, political activists and powerful politicians” not “you, the American people.”
After discussing the large amount of crime committed by illegal aliens, including some murders, Trump contrasted his approach to Hillary Clinton’s:
Hillary Clinton, for instance, talks constantly about her fears that families [of illegal immigrants] will be separated. But she’s not talking about the American families who have been permanently separated from their loved ones because of a preventable death [caused by an illegal immigrant]. No, she’s only talking about families who came here in violation of the law.
This, I think, is powerful stuff.
Further contrasting his approach to that of the Democrats, Trump stated:
President Obama and Hillary Clinton have engaged in gross dereliction of duty by surrendering the safety of the American people to open borders. President Obama and Hillary Clinton support Sanctuary Cities, they support catch-and-release on the border, they support visa overstays, they support the release of dangerous criminals from detention – and they support unconstitutional executive amnesty.
Hillary Clinton has pledged amnesty in her first 100 days, and her plan will provide Obamacare, Social Security and Medicare for illegal immigrants – breaking the federal budget. On top of that, she promises uncontrolled low-skilled immigration that continues to reduce jobs and wages for American workers, especially African-American and Hispanic workers. This includes her plan to bring in 620,000 new refugees in a four-year term.
Having indicted Clinton and Obama, successfully I think, Trump turned to his plan. It consists of ten points. They are:
1. Build a wall along the Southern border;
2. End catch and release;
3. Zero tolerance for criminal aliens;
4. Block funding for sanctuary cities;
5. Cancel unconstitutional executive orders;
6. Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur;
7. Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported;
8. Complete the biometric entry-exit visa tracking system;
9. Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet;
10. Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers.
I think most Americans will agree with most of these points. Most conservatives will agree with all or nearly all of them.
Despite Trump’s effort to shift emphasis away from the treatment of the illegal immigrants who are in the U.S., most of the attention on his speech has centered on this subject. That’s fair enough, given that Trump himself emphasized this matter throughout the primary season.
Here is the key passage on treating illegal immigrants:
For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above. Those who have left to seek entry under this new system will not be awarded surplus visas, but will have to enter under the immigration caps or limits that will be established.
There will be no amnesty.
Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status, or become a citizen of the United States, by illegally entering our country.
This declaration alone will help stop the crisis of illegal crossings and illegal overstays.
People will know that you can’t just smuggle in, hunker down, and wait to be legalized. Those days are over.
In several years, when we have accomplished all of our enforcement goals – and truly ended illegal immigration for good, including the construction of a great wall, and the establishment of our new lawful immigration system – then and only then will we be in a position to consider the appropriate disposition of those who remain. That discussion can only take place in an atmosphere in which illegal immigration is a memory of the past, allowing us to weigh the different options available based on the new circumstances at the time.
As I argued, here, this is just where Trump needs to be.
Is there, as Byron York suggests, some tension between Trump’s flat declaration that there will be no legal status for illegal immigrants unless they first leave the country and his statement that, once his enforcement goals have been accomplished, we will be in a position to consider appropriate disposition of those who remain? Possible “Appropriate disposition” could mean some form of legal status.
However, I think Trump has now got the big picture right: enforce the law, no legalization now outside of the normal processes (which means go home and apply), and no consideration of legalization or any other adjustment for illegal immigrants until enforcement goals have been met.
It’s too bad that Trump took so long to get to this common sense position held, I believe, by most conservatives. But have finally gotten there, and with a successful visit to Mexico under his belt, Trump is in a decent position to continue whittling away at Hillary Clinton’s lead. Plus, he’s in a better position to debate immigration with Hillary.