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Architects of Failed Self-Deportation Policy Trying to Rebrand Their Deportation Strategy

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Times are tough for the anti-immigrant groups. Donald Trump has become the leading voice for that crowd with his calls for mass-deportation. So, they’re desperate for attention and relevance.

Outside of extreme anti-immigration circles, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), one of the organizations created by white nationalist John Tanton, is probably best known for crafting the politically toxic “self-deportation” strategy. In fact, CIS’ Executive Director Mark Krikorian clucked when Romney adopted the policy back in 2012. Of course, Romney’s embrace of “self-deportation” is credited with his dismal results with Latino voters.

Trump has clearly gotten under the skin of the Tanton network, as the new messaging document notes:

Mr. Trump has enabled false-choice partisans by a lack of specificity and consistency.

Truth be told, Trump and CIS share the same goal of pushing out undocumented immigrants. But, Trump’s call for mass deportation has stolen the CIS thunder.

So, what does CIS do with this failed “self-deporation” policy, which helped cost the GOP the presidency in 2012? Do they abandon it? No, they try to create space from Trump by rebranding this toxic idea.

Yes, CIS is dropping the term “self-deporting” and now categorizing deportees as those who are “voluntary” and others who are “reluctant.” The “voluntary” ones are going home anyway, according to CIS. It’s the “reluctant” ones who create a bigger challenge for the anti-immigrant forces.

In order to differentiate the CIS plan from Trump, the “reluctant” ones will be pushed out with “soft power” – it’s “soft” in order to “rule out SWAT teams and boxcars.” How humane of them. It’s still the same policy, creating an untenable situation for undocumented immigrants living in the United States, making their lives so miserable that they leave. That’s what CIS promotes. That’s what Romney touted. It hasn’t changed. Now, it’s just not called “self-deportation” cause that term has been so widely discredited.

Probably the “best” part of the latest CIS screed is the group’s attempt to describe the lives of the very people they want to leave:

Left to their own devices, a large part of the illegal population will eventually return home. Learn Spanish, speak to the “undocumented”, and you will discover that, with few exceptions, they miss the culture, familiar sights, and friend and family networks from which they have separated themselves. Unless we entice them to stay through a legalization program, many will voluntarily repatriate because they are homesick, cannot find a steady job, or have achieved their financial objectives, such as building a home in their village. Many, if not most, never intended to make the United States their permanent home.

Yes, cause if you want to know what immigrants are thinking, rely on the perspective of CIS.

Now, it’s also rich that this latest CIS piece castigates Romney for using the term “self-deportation”:

Unfortunately, he was advised to refer to the normal process of returning to the homeland as “self-deportation”, a sound bite used by his opponents to portray Romney as proposing “to make life miserable” for unlawful workers.

That idea came from CIS – and that’s exactly what Romney’s policy was intended to do. In fact, the title of Krikorian’s piece from January of 2012, cited above, is “Self-Deportation,” where he made this point, “The fact that Romney brought it up suggests someone in his campaign has given the matter at least a little thought.” Yeah, but, very little thought about the negative political implications. It would be unfortunate for any candidate to adopt this latest talking point from CIS, too.

Bottom line: Nothing has changed here. CIS still has the same cruel anti-immigrant policy. CIS still wants to force undocumented immigrants out of the United States. CIS is just changing the name of the policy. Candidates who listen to CIS do so at their own risk. Just ask Mitt Romney.