Donald Trump began his bid for president saying Mexican immigrants were “rapists,” bringing drugs, and “some, I assume, are good people.”
And, Sunday he made headlines again talking about immigrants. He rolled out his first detailed policy position, and it was on immigration reform.
His central premise is that immigrants are bad for the U.S. economy, and he ticked off a series of ways to fix both legal and illegal immigration.
The full plan is outlined on his website, but here are the key nuggets:
- Build a wall across the southern border paid for by Mexico
- Seize all remittance payments “derived from illegal wages” until Mexico agrees to pay for the wall
- Implement a nationwide e-verify system and defund sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with the federal law
- End birthright citizenship (currently enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution)
- Crack down on H-1B visas, which are designated for high-skilled STEM employees, by requiring companies to hire from the pool of unemployed domestic workers first
- Create criminal penalties for people who overstay a visa
In an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Trump went further, suggesting he would rescind President Obama’s executive order and deport all illegal immigrants from the country. Here’s an excerpt of the conversation with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd:
TODD: You’re going to split up families. You’re going to deport children?
TRUMP: Chuck — no, no. No, we’re going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together.
TODD: But, you’re going to keep them together out —
TRUMP: But, they have to go. But, they have to go.
TODD: What if if they have no place to go?
TRUMP: We will work with them. They have to go. Chuck, we either have a country or we don’t have a country …
Trump’s hard-line immigration policy could prove risky for a Republican Party desperately trying to court — or at least not offend — Latino voters.
The GOP’s own autopsy in the wake of the 2012 election said:
“… We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”
A Gallup Poll released in July found that 65 percent of Americans favor some sort of path to citizenship compared to 19 percent who prefer deportation.
Perhaps more important politically, Trump’s policy could force his GOP rivals to clarify their own immigration proposals.
Both Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have previously suggested they could support some type of legalization for immigrants who entered the country illegally but are now working as law-abiding members of society.
And, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was part of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” the bipartisan group of senators that led the effort on immigration reform in 2013, but he’s been noticeably quiet on immigration since announcing a bid for president.
As for Trump, he leads most polls, and that popularity suggests some GOP candidates are hesitant to criticize him. Earlier this morning, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told Fox News that although he hasn’t yet dug into all the details of Trump’s plan, he believes it’s “similar” to his own:
“Earlier in the year, I was on Fox News Sunday and laid out what I thought we should do, which is to secure the border, which means build the wall, have the technology, have the personnel to make sure it’s safe and secure, enforce the law … and I said no amnesty, I don’t believe in amnesty.”
The question now is how the Trump factor forces the rest of the GOP field to respond.