Trump supporters and detractors alike have been mystified over the Republican nominees recent moves on immigration. After vowing to go further on the issue than any other major-party politician in modern history, Trump has begun signaling a shift. According to every halfway-believable report, that shift will include dropping plans to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.
More so than The Wall, mass deportations clearly separated Trump’s position on illegal immigration from his Republican opponents in the primaries. As a caller pointed out to Rush Limbaugh this week, much of Trump’s strength in the debates came from his ability to use this difference to make the others on stage look weak. The others called him a con artist, blatantly lying to voters about the policy. They said it couldn’t be done, and they said that even if it could, Trump wasn’t going to do it.
And, if the reports are correct – we’ll find out Wednesday night, according to the Trump campaign – then those Republicans were right.
But this isn’t about Trump’s character; he has a right to change his mind. It doesn’t mean he was “lying” in the primaries. Everyone knew at the start of this thing that Trump did not have a comprehensive understanding of public policy. His supporters were voting for his fighting spirit, not his specific, down-to-the-letter proposals. And, since no politician in the history of the world has ever kept all of their campaign promises, that was a fine way to decide.
Politically, Trump’s “softening” may be the right thing to do. We’ll have to wait and see how it shakes out in the polls. If it turns out to be the magic key to defeating Hillary Clinton in November, then hey, even the flimsiest version of Trump’s immigration policy will be better than hers.
The thing is, when you start talking about our moral obligation to illegal immigrants, you’re no longer talking about putting America First. No nation is obliged to accept foreigners who have broken its laws. The very thought is absurd. Yet, this idea has traction on both sides of the partisan divide. It’s the same idea that leads to amnesty, family reunification policies, and an ever-expanding definition of the word “refugee.” It’s the same idea that guided most of Trump’s Republican challengers. It’s the same idea the voters rejected when they flocked – in record numbers – to make him the nominee.
If Trump has to fake an interest in that idea to become president, then that’s what he has to do. But if he actually embraces that idea as president and uses it to guide his immigration policy, our country will continue its journey to oblivion.