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Trump Embraces Mass Deportation of Undocumented Immigrants, Followed by Beauty Pageant-Style Readmission Policy

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A “Proposal” as Extreme as it is Unserious; and Yet it’s Remarkably Similar to Scott Walker’s

While Donald Trump’s comments on immigrants have been mostly been bluster and bigotry, befitting his frontrunner status, he is now venturing into the realm of immigration policy.

It is not pretty.

In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash yesterday, Trump outlined his approach:

“[D]eport all undocumented immigrants and then allow the ‘good ones’ to reenter the country through an ‘expedited process’ and live in the U.S. legally, though not as citizens.”

Regarding how to implement his mass deportation vision, Trump said:

“Politicians aren’t going to find them [undocumented immigrants] because they have no clue. We will find them, we will get them out … It’s feasible if you know how to manage. Politicians don’t know how to manage.”

So, what are serious policy experts to make of this unserious idea?

Let’s start with the premise.  Trump says, in effect, first we round up and deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, and he will do so because he knows how to manage.  This is as extreme as it is ridiculous.  There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.  Two-thirds have lived and worked in America for more than a decade.  Most live in families.  Many own homes.  They are intertwined in families and communities, they are settled and most are going nowhere.  The idea that he will round up and deport a population the size of Ohio is un-American, unworkable and unaffordable.  Politically, it’s consistent with his racist comments about Mexican immigrants, and it’s more extreme than Mitt Romney’s infamous embrace of “self-deportation.”

But wait.  There’s more.  Once this mass expulsion is complete, according to Trump, he will set up a process of allowing the “good ones” to re-enter the nation legally.  It’s as if he wants his immigration policy to be modeled after one of his beauty pageants or his reality show.

Deep breath.  Face palm.

It’s tempting to see Trump as an outlier.  But what’s remarkable is that supposedly “serious” GOP contenders aren’t making much more sense on immigration policy.  Witness Scott Walker: he says that undocumented immigrants have to leave the country and apply to come back in. While he doesn’t explicitly call for mass deportation, conceptually there’s not much difference between the two plans, both of which call for people to leave the country to apply to come in legally – as if that were feasible and realistic.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Republican field, Lindsey Graham excepted, is embracing the “secure the border first” excuse for inaction on broader reforms and advancing the false notion that the border is out of control.  As America’s Voice outlined in our recent report on 2016 Republicans and immigration, saying the “secure the border first” riff is a coded way to say “comprehensive immigration reform never.” It ignores the tremendous amount of resources already devoted to the border and is at odds with the real facts on the ground regarding border security (see the recent front-page story in the Washington Post by Jerry Markon, which noted that “illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades”).  As the Wall Street Journal has editorialized: “Republicans who claim we must ‘secure the border first’ ignore the progress already made because their real goal isn’t border security.  It is to use border security as an excuse to kill immigration reform.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Trump’s so-called plan doesn’t pass the smell test or the laugh test.  The notion of forcing 11 million hardworking immigrant families to leave the country is so ugly and unworkable even the anti-immigrant movement has disavowed this radical notion.  Now Trump is going there, putting him to the right of Romney’s radical ‘self-deportation’ stance and showing the country generally, and Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters in particular what the GOP’s frontrunner has in mind for immigration policy in America.”