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Ahead of Presidential Debate, Questions, Resources and Reminders that Donald Trump Hasn’t “Softened” on Immigration

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Ahead of Sunday night’s presidential debate, there’s another concerted effort by allies of Donald Trump to try to airbrush and “fuzz up” the extent of his radicalism on immigration. Governor Mike Pence seems to be taking the lead, arguing that Trump wants to focus mostly on undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes and stating flatly that Trump no longer supports a ban on Muslims.

Serious journalists and analysts should be able to see through the “sand in your face” approach of the Trump campaign.

Despite an emphasis on deporting “criminal aliens” first, Trump has been clear and consistent that he is determined to deport or force out all but some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America (see a good piece from the Washington Post’sGreg Sargent yesterday going into more details on the realities of Trump’s immigration policy stance). And with respect to the Muslim ban, “extreme vetting” conducted through the prism of ideological and nationality screens will amount to a ban on most Muslims.

Far from “softening”, Trump actually is doubling down on his radicalism with respect to immigrants and immigration. Just this morning, Trump started whipping up fears about immigrants coming over the border “just to vote” – an outrageous lie and dangerous provocation based on a conspiracy theory typically confined to the fever swamps of neo-Nazis.

Ahead of Sunday night’s debate, we offer key immigration questions for each candidate and offer additional backgrounders and resources for reading up on the most timely immigration-related topics.

Key Questions for Donald Trump:

1) You have said you will immediately end President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including the DACA program that currently protects 750,000 young people commonly referred to as DREAMers from deportation. Would you deport them on Day One?

2) Polls consistently show that by a 3-1 margin Americans believe undocumented immigrants should be able to gain legal status by meeting certain criteria, rather than be deported. Why do you support the deportation of most of these people, especially given multiple reports that doing so would cause significant damage to the economy and impose significant costs on the federal government?

Key Questions for Hillary Clinton:

1) President Obama promised early action on immigration reform during his first year in office and again after his re-election. You have done the same. He didn’t get legislation passed, how will your administration be different?

2) What will be your policy toward Central Americans fleeing widespread violence in the northern triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala?

Background Resources:

New studies: immigrants and immigration benefit America: A massive new immigration study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicinefinds that immigration creates strong economic growth for the nation as a whole. As the chair of the NAS Panel, Dr. Francine D. Blau noted, “The panel’s comprehensive examination revealed many important benefits of immigration — including on economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship — with little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term.” Additionally, new immigration studies from the Center for American Progress and Pew Research both demonstrate the incredible costs that America would incur by following Trump’s mass deportation vision.

Immigration polling: The American people are overwhelmingly – and increasingly – in favor of citizenship for undocumented immigrants – see this polling overview. Immigration may be a point of contention between Trump and Clinton, but Americans have already decided – overwhelming support for legalization and a path to citizenship. More than 72% of Americans back either citizenship or legalization for undocumented immigrants instead of deportation in recent polls from In New York Times/CBS,Quinnipiac, Washington Post/ABC News, CNN, and Gallup. In fact, as the Washington Post highlighted, Donald Trump’s overt nativism actually is “increasing sympathy for immigrants and depressing support for his harsh enforcement techniques.”

Immigrants and crime: Trump engages in blatant falsehoods regarding immigrants and criminality – see this American Immigration Council overview on how and why immigration is associated with less crime and safer communities

Key Reminders and Takeaways:

Donald Trump has pledged to immediately end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers – a real threat to a real program that is a real benefit for approximately 750,000 DACA recipients (read the new Medium post from DACA recipient and America’s Voice staffer Juan Escalante, who writes that, “My ability to remain in the United States hinges on the 2016 general election”). Recently, Donald Trump, Jr. said that his father likely would seek to deport prominent DREAMer Astrid Silva (who herself penned a recent op-ed making the case for why DACA should matter to 2016 voters and affect races up and down the ballot).

Stop the charade: Trump hasn’t “softened” on immigration: While the Trump campaign’s recent and continued word blizzard around immigration is designed to sow confusion and misinformation, the policy thrust remains consistent and disturbing – Trump certainly has not “softened” on immigration. America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry called Trump’s approach “the most radical immigration policy of any nominee in modern American politics. The intended outcome of Trump’s policy is to drive all but a handful of undocumented immigrants out of the country. That’s 11 million people who live and work and are settled throughout America. If implemented, it would be one of the most shameful chapters in American history.”

The two parties have never had a sharper contrast on immigration. As the Trump-led nativist backlash on the right pulls the Republican Party in the wrong direction on immigration, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are leaning into pro-immigrant policies like never before: pledging to make reform with a path to citizenship a top legislative priority; maintaining the DACA program for DREAMers; and promising to “end family detention, close private detention .facilities, and stop the raids and round ups,” as Clinton stated at the 2016 CHCI gala.