Why only Trump can reform immigration

The Nixon paradox tends to be more the exception than the rule, but perhaps it’s the case when it comes to immigration reform. As a foreign national myself, I have a personal interest in seeing visa applications expanded and processes streamlined, and for it to become easier to obtain a green card.

So while I abhor the halo of xenophobia that surrounds Trump and his zealous supporters, it’s not obvious to me that his presidency would be the worst outcome for advocates of more open borders. It is often forgotten, but Eisenhower’s two terms as president also saw the largest expansion of the Bracero guest worker program in its history, for which thousands of Mexican-Americans owe their naturalization.

The more general lesson is that politics is counter-intuitive. Instead of throwing support behind the candidate you most identify with in the abstract, a more rigorous approach considers the total effect the winning candidate is likely to have on future states of the world, intended or not.

So when it comes to immigration reform, I can’t help but be reminded of what Nixon said to Mao upon their first meeting: “The most important thing to note is that in America, at least this time, those on the Right can do what those on the Left can only talk about.”