(Washington Post: Greg Sargent)
THE MORNING PLUM:
With his own confidants telling him he is on track to losing, Donald Trump faces a choice. Should he continue to feed his base his customary brew of nativist and xenophobic nationalism, and count on angry non-college whites to push him over the top in a decisive handful of Rust Belt states?
Or should he try to persuade college educated white swing voters that he isn’t the peddler of bigotry and hate (these voters actually believe he is biased against minorities or says things designed to play on bigotry) that they have watched screaming at them from their TV screens for the last year?
Trump’s immigration speech last night strongly suggests that he either continues to bet on the former, or that he believes that a very light cosmetic makeover of his proposals will be enough to win over sufficient numbers of the latter.
You may have read news accounts that told you that Trump has stopped using the words “deportation force.” That is narrowly true, but it is largely irrelevant to understanding what actually happened last night. Here are two basic facts about the “new” positions on immigration that Trump clarified in his Arizona speech:
1) Trump has now officially ruled out any meaningful path to legalization for the 11 million.
Trump flatly stated that for undocumented immigrants, there is “one route and one route only” to legal status: “to return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else.” Trump did not call for any change in the law that would expedite legal status for those who leave and return, which means in practical terms that this path is foreclosed to many, since it would mean very long wait times that would rupture families and work arrangements. As Julia Preston puts it: “In practice, immigrants who depart could face years of uncertain waiting outside the country.”
In other words, the 11 million have no meaningful path to legalization — which Trump labeled “amnesty” numerous times — and this means they are not just consigned to the shadows indefinitely, but targets for deportation for the foreseeable future.
2) Trump has now confirmed not just that the 11 million are all targets for deportation, but also that deportation efforts will be increased from the status quo.
Trump flatly stated that “anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation.” Because Trump stopped using the words “deportation force,” some journalists are claiming he’s “shelving” mass deportations. But to focus on that is to succumb to misdirection. Trump did say he would remove criminals first. But he also said that we will be in a position to consider the “appropriate disposition of those individuals who remain” only after his “beautiful southern border wall” is built, all the criminals are removed, and illegal immigration is ended “for good.”
Even though none of those conditions is ever likely to be met, some are bizarrely treating this as if it holds out the promise of relief or legal status later. But it cannot mean this, because Trump himself flatly ruled out any meaningful path to legal status, and he also said he would rescind Obama’s efforts at executive deportation relief, including for the DREAMers which he repeatedly called “amnesty.” There is no logical way to square those priorities with the potential for genuine assimilation later.
What’s more, as Benjy Sarlin notes, Trump also outlined proposals that add up to a “far more sweeping enforcement regime” than the status quo, and a “major expansion of enforcement in general.” This includes proposals to triple the number of ICE agents, to immediately initiate deportation proceedings for any undocumented immigrant arrested for anything, and to redouble the focus on people who overstay visas. An analysis by Jose DelReal concluded that as many as six million would be targeted for short term deportation under Trump’s regime. As Sarlin rightly puts it, Trump actually recommitted to mass deportations last night, albeit in a somewhat more limited way than his earlier hallucinations about removing all the 11 million with a clap of those strong, manly hands.
Dem strategist Simon Rosenberg argues that Trump also said he’d do more to enlist local law enforcement in deportation efforts. “Trump stopped using the words ‘deportation force,’ then proposed something far more Orwellian and expansive,” Rosenberg says.
Given all of this, Trump’s short term focus on criminals and supposed shift away from mass deportations amount to nothing more than a rhetorical ruse. It’s reporter chum. It’s designed to soften the goal of mass removal, by creating the impression that maybe possibly something can be worked out for those he calls “the good ones” later. But that option is simply not present Trump’s vision, no matter how hard people squint for it. Indeed, all of this taken together puts Trump to the right of Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” stance. Trump would expand deportation efforts, and more generally, he was far more overtly xenophobic about keeping the dark hordes out, and far more lurid and ugly in his broad-brush tarring of illegal immigrants as criminals and invaders, than Romney was.