Donald Trump has finally released a policy plan on the issue that has become his signature: immigration.
In it, Trump calls for sweeping changes, including a limitation on the amount of legal immigrants who are allowed to work in the U.S., as well as a call to end birthright citizenship – which would require a highly unlikely repeal of the 14th amendment.
Other key elements of the plan include tripling the number of immigration enforcement officers, seeking out and deporting anyone found to be in the country illegally, building a wall on the southern border and extracting money from Mexico to fund it, requiring the hiring of American workers over immigrants and limiting work visas for non-citizens, the implementation of E-Verify, and the institution of a limit on overall legal immigration to the country.
This issue has shed a light on major divides within the Republican Party’s base. Ann Coulter, known for her anti-immigrant stance, recently tweeted about Trump’s plan.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 16, 2015
Critics however, especially free market and limited government advocates, are concerned. As Robby Soave wrote at Reason Magazine:
“Such a plan would be economically ruinous if implemented. It ignores the considerable benefits of immigration and immigrant workers. The overwhelming consensus among economists is that immigrant labor is a huge boon to the economy—boosting wages, creating jobs, and lowering the price of goods. When the government prevents immigrants from doing the jobs they want to do, it slows down the engine of economic growth.”
“Conservatives must understand this on some level, given that they can typically be found lamenting that government regulation is killing the economy. They know that EPA compliance kills jobs. Labor-related regulatory compliance isn’t any different,” added Soave.
There is also concern among some corners of the right about the increase in bureaucratic and police state activity around immigration. As Rich Cromwell wrote at The Federalist:
“In short, the great conservative savior who wants to “Make America Great Again” primarily plans to do so by creating vast new swathes of bureaucracy and swelling the police state. If that’s your jam, then jam on, but if you want to actually have a smaller state with less bureaucracy and government intrusion, then Trump is not the droid you seek. His plans to make America great again increasingly look like Obama on stilts with a big bag of cocaine and no limiting principles.”
Rare’s Matt Purple makes similar points:
The uncomfortable truth about hard-nosed immigration crackdowns is that they necessitate a government that can peep into your personal information, kick down your door if it suspects you of not being a citizen, and socially engineer the population by hand-picking who can and can’t come into the country. Even that seemingly levelheaded plan to get tough on visa overstayers would mean devising a way for the feds to track foreigners inside the United States, another intrusion on privacy.
A prudent conservatism, at the very least, should tease out a way to beef up immigration enforcement that avoids harmful infringements on our liberty. This isn’t what Trump does.
Beyond Coulter however, there are elements of the right that do buy into this plan. For example, it was created with the input of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who represents the GOP’s hardline wing on immigration. While this plan may excite some parts of the conservative base however, it turns off a significant number as well, according to polling.
Practically speaking, Trump’s plan will ultimately be very difficult, if not impossible, to implement.