No Pivot Here: Donald Trump’s Rhetorical Tricks on Immigration

Written by on August 24, 2016 in Elections with 0 Comments

4887605689_78330591bf_bThe media has swooned over a few vague statements made of late by presidential candidate Donald Trump. He has spent the past few days hinting that he may “soften” his immigration policy with respect to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Up until very recently he has said  that undocumented immigrants “have to go” and that he would be “rounding ’em up” and forcing them to leave the country. Now, he is waffling rhetorically on that plan signaling he may soften that policy for some. Yet he has not explained what those softened policies would look like. Moreover, he has not walked back any of his other anti-immigrant policy plans like ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or birthright citizenship.

According to the Huffington Post:

“…Trump would eliminate the Obama policies that create what the campaign aide said is an “immunity blanket for … 99 percent of the illegal immigrant population.” That includes the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that allows undocumented young people who came to the U.S. to stay on a temporary basis, but also lesser-known policy memos that discourage officers from pursuing deportation against some individuals who they encounter and deem low priority.”

This rhetorical shift from forcing everyone out to enforcing the laws on the books reportedly comes as Trump attempts to soften his own image with voters. The Washington Post reports:

“For Trump, the objective is twofold, according to his aides and allies. He wants to make inroads with minority voters, who polls show overwhelmingly support Clinton. He also believes that a more measured approach on race can convince white voters now shunning him—especially women—that he is not the racist that his inflammatory rhetoric might indicate.”

What’s most disappointing is that he has yet to propose any kind of constructive and affirmative immigration policy reform package. Rather he offers only a range of enforcement-related plans like building a wall, ending birthright citizenship, and instituting broadly the worksite employment verification system—E-verify. None of his enforcement-centric solutions go anywhere near providing the truly comprehensive immigration reform needed to update the U.S. immigration system or bring the currently undocumented population into the fold of American civic and economic life.

The lack of substance beneath his recent comments shows that they are likely nothing more than a rhetorical trick to make inroads with some voting blocs with whom he is polling badly. Trump should not get credit towards being a true problem solver when all he has done is moderate his comments slightly when talking about how and whom to deport.  That is a far cry from proposing real immigration policy reform that is long overdue.

Photo by Pietro Garrone.

 

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