Is Trump for Real on Immigration?

W. James Antle, Washington Examiner, October 29, 2015

It will be one of the big post-debate fact checks, the kind that gets candidates awarded multiple Pinocchios or told their pants are on fire.

At Wednesday night’s Republican debate, a moderator started to ask Donald Trump about calling Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator” because of the Floridian’s support for increasing the number of H-1B visas.

“I was not at all critical of him. I was not at all,” Trump shot back. Pressed further, he insisted, “I never said that. I never said that.” He told the moderator she got her facts wrong.

It was an effective moment for Trump–“You people write this stuff”–but lo and behold, the comments did really appear on his website. Media outlets wondered if Trump had even read his own immigration policy paper.

The real question is whether that paper even reflects Trump’s immigration policy. The candidate, who lost his longtime first place standing in the Washington Examiner‘s power rankings to Rubio, certainly uses the sharpest rhetoric in criticizing illegal immigration. But his comments frequently don’t match the details of his supposed immigration plan.

“I am all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley,” Trump said Wednesday night, declining to criticize either Rubio or H-1B visas. Yet the Trump immigration paper complains as much as “two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program,” lamenting “the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program.”

In the same paragraph, Trump’s plan includes the offending remarks about Rubio and Zuckerberg, saying a proposal to triple the number of H-1B visas “would decimate women and minorities.” Trump said none of that on the debate stage and instead allowed Rubio to be the one to say that companies abusing H-1Bs to avoid hiring American workers “should be permanently barred from ever using the program again.”

When directly asked about H-1Bs, Trump said, “I’m in favor of people coming into this country legally. And you know what? They can have it anyway you want. You can call it visas, you can call it work permits, you can call it anything you want.”

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Like most Republicans, Trump on the stump emphasizes he is only opposed to illegal immigration. But his policy paper suggests that overall immigration, including legal immigration is too high, calls for “immigration moderation,” even a greencard “pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers.”

Instead of spelling any of this out, Trump said Wednesday, “We’re going to have a big, fat, beautiful door in front of the [border] wall.” {snip}

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It appears that Trump may have simply signed his name to policies more closely associated with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., without really internalizing or even fully comprehending them. Scott Walker went down that road and it didn’t end well.

Why does any of this matter? Because Trump may offer the significant number of voters who don’t want to increase, or even want to reduce, immigration the worst of all possible worlds: rhetoric that alienates Hispanics and immigrants without policies that would actually moderate immigration levels or promote assimilation.

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