Trump’s limited options in immigration

Donald Trump is likely to amplify his simple, emotional messaging about immigration. A more nuanced approach might look paralyzed.

The NY Times reports that Trump is delaying into next week a speech on immigration, a topic which he frames almost entirely in the context of law enforcement against violators, especially border control. The majority of Americans per polls does not believe that the federal government effectively controls who comes in and who stays.

He calls for mass deportation of the 11 million-plus undocumented residents. At a practical level, mass deportation is frustrated by a web of legal protections for undocumented residents. These protections arose out of federal civil rights advances since the mid 20th Century. In an era of increasing civil rights it’s inconceivable that mass deportation would happen.

His plan is also problematic because it is easy to characterize mass deportation as intensely cruel. Many undocumented people are married to American citizens. There are about 4.5 million children born in the U.S. under the age of 18 at least one of whose parents is undocumented. Some 1.6 million of these children are under the age of five.

There are four basic ways to control illegal immigration: border control, employer sanctions, guest worker programs, and legalization. America has the largest illegal immigrant population in the world, and any effective plan for immigration control must use all four approaches. It’s hard to see how Trump or Clinton would want to discuss this.

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