In a new must-read piece in the Washington Post, Greg Sargent unpacks what Governor Mike Pence said on immigration policy during Tuesday’s vice presidential debate. Sargent makes clear that despite Gov. Pence’s attempts to blur the nature and intentions of Trump’s radicalism, Trump would deport or force out all but a few of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.
As Sargent explains:
“What’s on display here is the same scam job that Trump’s campaign used to hoodwink reporters into claiming he was “softening” on mass deportations, in the run-up to his big clarifying speech in Arizona. Trump had repeatedly hinted he was backing away from his “plan” to proactively, immediately round up every single undocumented immigrant and ship them out of the country without any delay. But then, in the Arizona speech, Trump confirmed that very little had actually changed.
Read below or click here for Sargent’s piece, titled “Mike Pence speaks softly, while doubling down on Trump’s mass deportations”.
“Here’s another thing from last night’s debate that deserves more attention amid all the talk about Mike Pence’s calm, reassuring demeanor. When Tim Kaine reminded the audience that Donald Trump has promised to ship millions of undocumented immigrants out of the country in cattle cars, Pence sadly denied it, and softly suggested that Trump would never, ever do anything so horrible as to follow through on his vow to create a “deportation force.”
But Pence also went right ahead and doubled down on Trump’s plans for mass deportations, and for good measure, on the whole wretched, dishonest, demagogic story that Trump has been telling about immigration for the last year — indeed, the very same story that launched Trump’s whole candidacy.
The key part came when Kaine drew a contrast between the Democratic ticket’s plan — comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country — and Trump’s plan. “Donald Trump believes in deportation nation,” Kaine said, repeatedly reminding the national audience that Trump has proposed to create a “deportation force.” Kaine added that “they want to go house to house, school to school, business to business” in rounding up and “kicking out” undocumented immigrants.
Pence repeatedly replied this was “nonsense.” But here’s how he described what the GOP ticket would actually do:
“Donald Trump’s laid out a plan to end illegal immigration once and for all in this country. We’ve been talking it to death for 20 years. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want to continue the policies of open borders, amnesty, catch and release, sanctuary cities, all the things that are driving — that are driving wages down in this country, Senator, and also too often with criminal aliens in the country, it’s bringing heartbreak.
“But Donald Trump has a plan that he laid out in Arizona, that will deal systemically with illegal immigration, beginning with border security, internal enforcement. It’s probably why for the first time in the history of Immigration and Customs Enforcement their union actually endorsed Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, because they know they need help to enforce the laws of this country.
“And Donald Trump has laid out a priority to remove criminal aliens, remove people that have overstayed their visas. And — and once we have accomplished all of that, which will — which will strengthen our economy, strengthen the rule of law in the country and make our communities safer once the criminal aliens are out, then we’ll deal with those that remain.”
What’s on display here is the same scam job that Trump’s campaign used to hoodwink reporters into claiming he was “softening” on mass deportations, in the run-up to his big clarifying speech in Arizona. Trump had repeatedly hinted he was backing away from his “plan” to proactively, immediately round up every single undocumented immigrant and ship them out of the country without any delay. But then, in the Arizona speech, Trump confirmed that very little had actually changed.
While Trump had stopped using the words “deportation force,” his plan still contained several core elements. First, it offered no path to legalization for those 11 million people without leaving the country and coming back, which in practice means this path to legalization doesn’t meaningfully exist for many of them. Second, all 11 million would remain targets for removal for the indefinite future. While this is not quite the same as vowing instant mass deportations, Trump’s position on the underlying core dispute — should the millions of otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants who have been here for many years, and are already contributing to American life, be given a way to get right with the law, or should they remain forever in the shadows as perpetual targets for suspicion, enforcement and removal — hadn’t changed.
Pence confirmed all this last night. Though he sadly denied that Trump would create a “deportation force,” he did reiterate that Trump’s plan is the one he presented in Arizona, with all of the key pillars I mentioned above. In fact, in this context, it’s particularly noteworthy that Pence rebuffed the “mass deportations” charge by saying: “We have a deportation force. It’s called Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” This is correct, but it actually undermines his own suggestion that we should find Trump’s plan more reassuring than “mass deportations.” That’s because Trump’s plan explicitly seeks to expand ICE’s enforcement efforts. As Benjy Sarlin has explained, by proposing this ICE expansion, Trump actually offered a “recommitment” to mass deportations. This, combined with other elements in Trump’s plan, would mean that as many as 6.5 million would be targeted for rapid removal. Pence effectively confirmed all this while trying to sound soothing about it.
Pence also revived another clever rhetorical trick Trump has used to make his mass deportation plan seem more “humane,” as Trump likes to put it. Pence reiterated that Trump would target the criminals for removal first, and repeated Trump’s suggestion that “we’ll deal with those that remain” after the border is secured. But this ruse is designed to sugar-coat the goal of mass removals, and make it sound less cruel to the ears of suburban swing voters, by implying that maybe something can be worked out later for all of those undocumented immigrants that have integrated themselves. But, since Trump has ruled out any meaningful path to legalization — which Pence confirmed last night — that goal simply isn’t in Trump’s vision, no matter how hard people wish for it to be there.
Finally, Pence repeated the lie that under Obama, there have been “open borders,” in effect underscoring Trump’s long-running suggestion that dark hordes are besieging the southern border. Trump’s first general election addramatized this with grainy footage of shadowy figures sprawled atop a train crossing the border. In reality, experts say the border is being managed, and the latest figures show that the undocumented population in the U.S. leveled off years ago.
There was one moment when Pence’s polish deserted him. It came when Kaine once again reminded the audience of Trump’s demagoguery towards Mexicans. Pence replied, tiredly, “Senator, you’ve whipped out that Mexican thing again.” But as annoying as it must have been for Pence to be confronted with Trump’s demagoguery, Pence did not tell a story that was meaningfully different from it. He told the same ugly and dishonest immigration tale that Trump has told ever since he announced. As Dara Lind puts it, Pence spoke to the same anxieties about immigration that have animated Trumpism for the last year, only he did it a little more quietly than Trump himself does. Or maybe he did it in a comforting Indiana drawl.”