***

[C]ampaigns of most of the other leading candidates hoped they could avoid offering an actual plan, finessing the issue instead by mouthing platitudes for the yahoos without specifics that might upset donors. Trump’s paper takes direct aim at this strategy when it states “Real immigration reform puts the needs of working people first – not wealthy globetrotting donors.”

And that makes me pessimistic about anyone adopting Ian’s sensible suggestion that a “candidate who wants to be formidable, and knock Trump from his perch, would assert The Donald’s principles, then bolster them with solid policies.”

The three principles the paper offers wouldn’t even have to be articulated in a healthier society; of course immigration policy must be based exclusively on the interests of We the People of the United States, not wealthy donors, not corporations, not union bosses, not big-city politicians, and not foreign citizens. Their articulation is nonetheless useful as a way to flush out libertarian and leftist opponents of American sovereignty.

***

Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican, released a statement Sunday praising the immigration proposal from presidential candidate Donald Trump. “This is exactly the plan America needs,” said Sessions. “Not only would the plan outlined in this paper work, but more quickly than many realize. Most importantly, this plan reestablishes the principle that American’s immigration laws should serve the interests of its own citizens. For too long, ‘immigration reform’ plans in Washington have served the special interests at the expense of working Americans.”

Sessions goes on to say that Trump’s plan puts “working Americans foremost” and puts an emphasis on lifting “struggling minority communities, including our immigrant communities, out of poverty.”

“When the labor market is oversupplied, it tilts the balance of power away form workers and towards employers,” Sessions continued. “In combination with a smart, fair trade policy this proposal would reinvigorate the middle class.  Polling shows this plan will appeal broadly to all segments of the electorate: prioritizing the just demands of loyal, everyday Americans who have been shunned by a governing elite.”

***

Suppose there were a countervailing force to the fiscally conservative, socially liberal type? Fiscally liberal, socially (or at any rate culturally) conservative. Recent elections in Europe suggest there’s no shortage of voters who like their welfare checks, free health care, state pension plans …but don’t see what any of that has to do with letting the country fill up with fanatical Muslims hot for sharia and female genital mutilation. Once upon a time the old left-wing parties represented that interest, but the British Labour Party and most European social democratic parties abandoned that market when they got hot for multiculturalism and diversity.

Is there a similar constituency in America? In other words, people who like their Medicare and food stamps …but, like Trump, think there are too many unskilled Mexican peasants flooding into a country with ever diminishing social mobility and no hope of economic improvement without a credential that requires taking on a quarter-million dollars in debt. As Trump’s detractors see it, he’s just a reality-show buffoon with a portfolio of incoherent attitudes that display no coherent worldview. But very few people go around with a philosophically consistent attitude to life: Your approach to, say, health insurance is determined less by abstract principles than by whether you can afford it. Likewise, your attitude to the DREAMers may owe more to whether your local school district is collapsing under the weight of all this heartwarming diversity…

On immigration both parties are engaged in a conspiracy against the American people. One party gets cheap voters and Big Government dependents; the other gets cheap labor and a chocolate on its turned down coverlet in the junior suite. The Democrats made a smarter deal. The Republicans signed a demographic death warrant. Yet Jeb! and the other alleged non-buffoons in the race have to be dragged kicking and screaming to get beyond the most ludicrous sentimentalist pap on the subject. If a “real” Republican is someone who toes the party line on a suicide mission, why be surprised that voters seek reality elsewhere?

***

This plan positions him well to appeal to Tea Party Republicans who favored Rick Santorum in 2012 and are wary of the more pro-immigration Bush. But the proposal will make the Republican establishment even more determined to prevent Trump from winning the primary.

For a general election, if Trump ran against Hillary Clinton or another Democrat, his opponent would use this plan to paint Trump as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino. It would severely complicate his prospects for victory.

Most of Trump’s plan has no chance of becoming law. Constitutional amendments are almost never adopted, so ending birthright citizenship is deeply unrealistic. The U.S. could attempt to build some kind of border wall, but few Republicans in Congress support this idea and it is opposed by virtually all Democrats. The Mexican government is almost certain not to be paid for it. Mass deportations of illegal immigrants are also unlikely.

***

Apart from immigration-wary conservatives, a large and passionate Republican constituency, Trump’s plan will be despised by just about everyone. Knowing as much, the Democratic National Committee wasted little time trying to tie other Republicans to Trump.

“Trump has reignited the GOP’s longstanding obsession with mass deportation,” said Pablo Manriquez, the DNC’s director of Hispanic media. “Like his fellow GOP candidates Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and others, GOP front runner [T]rump dismisses a full and equal pathway to citizenship for hardworking immigrants.”…

Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration group America’s Voice, called Trump’s proposals “as dangerous as they are stunning” and placed the candidate “firmly on the far right fringes of the debate.” He said Trump’s policies would “leave a moral stain on the fabric of this nation of immigrants, trample the U.S. Constitution and its due process protections, rip apart millions of American families, and deal a death blow to our economy.”

“Fortunately,” he said, “these dangerous ideas are neither workable nor popular.”

***

Amnesty isn’t on Trump’s agenda, though. His plan is deportation, which Krikorian dismissed as unrealistic.

“It’s a gimmick,” Krikorian said. “He’s just making it up as he goes along. What ever goes into his mind comes out of his mouth. There’s no way to deport 11 or 12 million people in a short period of time.”…

The American Action Forum, a conservative research organization, attempted to estimate the cost of deporting all of the country’s undocumented immigrants, while deporting new undocumented immigrants who arrive. Doing so would take 20 years and cost between $420 billion and $619 billion, the group concluded. The group also predicted that removing a large and important segment of the American workforce from the country would reduce the size of the economy by 5.7 percent after two decades.

Trump’s plan would triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, but it does not discuss how to pay for the additional jail beds that would be necessary if federal agents were to arrest three times as many undocumented immigrants. Nor does it discuss the administrative costs that would come with processing their cases.

***

This immigration plan is a perfect example of what Scott Adams has described as Trump’s clown genius ability to use intentional exaggeration to provide anchors for your brain, and persuade your subconscious to think things you would never originally think. Trump’s plan involves the deportation of millions of people, the seizure of money sent back to Mexico by illegal immigrants, and an end to birthright citizenship. Nowhere in this white paper is the how of what Trump would do addressed. Not the massive new hiring of a force to displace millions of people, many of whom are young citizens who have Constitutional rights; not the invasion of privacy necessary for the government to open every parcel sent to Mexico and investigate every wire transfer sent there or elsewhere lest the source be illegal; not the fact that ending birthright citizenship will require a Constitutional amendment. Trump’s white paper just says he will do it in three sentences, one of which is “End birthright citizenship.”

The understanding that children born here in America, even those born to non-Americans, are citizens dates back to the Founding generation, which was of course full of people who were not as wise as Mr. Trump. Those losers had no idea the sort of carnage their dumb ideas would unleash. Perhaps their own glorious triumph over the dirty brown people they encountered gave them false confidence about protecting our jobs.

It’s understandable given Trump’s identity politics play that he would continue on this line of thought – that terrible immigrants are destroying our economy, and terrible children of illegal immigrants are so burdening our social services that they, even as legal American citizens because of the stupid Constitution, must be deported along with their families. Of course, ending birthright citizenship would create European-style generational ghettos in American communities. (What’s next, Donald: is Kraftwerk going to play “Hail to the Chief” at your inauguration?)

***

Trump seems incapable of such nuance. For instance, he told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that illegal immigrants in this country “have to go,” including the DREAMers (i.e. those illegal immigrants who were brought here as children, have no criminal backgrounds, and gone to college or joined the military). This is an unequivocal loser for conservatives. The DREAMers, after all, are a small cohort who receive outsized national attention because they are a politically sympathetic group. A skillful politician would gladly compromise on the DREAMers, knowing that the real goal is to ensure that effective enforcement mechanisms take effect before any legalization.

But Trump is not a skillful politician. He is an amateur, and a vain one at that. Todd baited the hook, and Trump eagerly took a chomp. He couldn’t help himself, even though it makes him look like a nativist, not to mention a statist. How many federal police officers would be needed to track down 11 million illegal immigrants? More than I care to hire, that’s for sure.

And this is why the politics of immigration is such a mess for conservatives. There only seem to be two groups of Republican leaders interested in this issue. Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Marco Rubio, and those who endorsed Rubio-Schumer are unwilling or unable to insist upon effective enforcement before amnesty. Meanwhile, the likes of Trump and Tom Tancredo fall into obvious nativist traps set up by the left. This is especially frustrating, considering that the people who lose the most when immigration laws are outdated or unenforced are on the bottom rungs of society, i.e. those toward whom conservatives are accused of being so hateful.

***

According to Simon Rosenberg, the president of NDN and a longtime watcher of Republican positioning on immigration, Trump has given voice to a narrative that most other Republicans avoid sounding quite as openly or loudly.

“No leading candidate for President in the last generation of U.S. politics has been so explicit about blaming Mexico, Mexican immigrants and our recent high rates of immigration for America’s economic troubles as Trump,” Rosenberg tells me. “He is the most significant champion of the restrictionist approach to immigration the country has seen in this era of American politics.”

Trump has laid down a hard marker. The questions now: Will the story Trump is telling on immigration enhance his appeal to GOP primary voters, as is plainly his goal?

***

[W]hen it comes to immigration — the one policy question on which everyone knows Trump’s stance — Republican voters prefer him to the other candidates

And that’s what makes a candidate like Trump potentially dangerous. On immigration, Trump holds a hard-line position that the Republican Party establishment has tried to mute, and so far Republican voters are loving it. On Social Security and Medicare, Trump — who opposes cuts — is closer to Republican voters than the party establishment is. On free trade deals, Trump shares a skepticism held by about half of Republican voters, but that’s usually suppressed by the party’s powerful business wing.

Most candidates who tried to stack this many heterodoxies would be quickly squelched by the party establishment. But Trump isn’t beholden to the GOP for money, staff, power, or press attention. That frees him to take positions that Republican voters like but Republican Party elites loathe.

It may be true that support for Trump, so far, is about personality rather than policy. But as the primary wears on, Republican voters might find that they actually agree with him. And that’s going to put the rest of the Republican field — all those candidates who were playing by the establishment’s rules — in a very tough position.

***

Trump’s “plan” is an assault on not merely the illegal immigrants who have violated American laws, but those who have played by the existing rules to come to the United States. The proposal amounts to a declaration of war on America’s immigrant community, an attack on the foundational nature of America’s character as a melting pot for all the peoples of the world, and the inception of a police state that is incompatible with a free republican democracy…

All that’s missing from his campaign platform is a proposal to rip the plaque with Emma Lazarus’ words right off the base of the Statue of Liberty and to repatriate the lady in the harbor back to her native France at the nearest possible convenience.

Politically, those on the right who have fallen for Trump and his hardline throat clearing on the issue of immigration will love this “plan.” Its very unworkability is, for some, its most attractive quality. Those who are unacquainted with how constitutional democracies create and enforce laws, or are perhaps contemptuous of that process, will see this as a display of resolve amid spinelessness. Republican consultants who watched Rick Perry and Rand Paul wilt after they attacked Trump’s approach on the merits will be disinclined to advise their candidates to take aim at Trump’s “plan.” If the GOP’s slate of 2016 candidates fails to attack this propagandist soapbox agitation masquerading as a platform, it will mark the moment when Trump finally began to rub off on the GOP. This “plan” is a road to electoral ruin. The GOP’s viable and responsible candidates would be best advised to call this inhumane and unrealistic approach to immigration reform what it is in stark terms, even at the risk of their standing in the polls and the alienation of the conservative movement’s talker class. The GOP is at risk of losing the general before it even begins.

***

Instead of Obama’s motto that “we’re all in this together,” what Trump is telling us, in effect, is “I’ve got this.” The point of most of his stories, like the one about how somebody paid him “hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to a dinner,” is that it’s a law of nature that money flows to him, and will flow to the country if we elect him: “We will make great trade deals. We will have Social Security without cuts. We will come up with health care plans that will be phenomenal, phenomenal, that will be less expensive.”…

On Meet the Press, the first questions from Todd were how Trump sees conservatism, and whether those who question how conservative he really is have a point.

“Well, I think they have a point from years ago,” he said, and compared himself to the man who granted amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants, Ronald Reagan, who was also a liberal before he was a conservative.

“And if I’m president, we’re going to have a great country,” he said near the end of the interview. “And then we will really have better than Reagan, better than anybody. We will make America great again. That’s what it’s all about.”