One of the great hopes Trump’s supporters had for him was that his candidacy would at least highlight the idiocy of America’s existing immigration regime. Even if he was crude about it, even if his rhetoric was unnecessarily inflammatory and racialized, he was driving at the core questions around which an immigration policy is built: Who? How many? What will they contribute to our country?
Unlike all the other candidates who merely praise the legacy of Ellis Island as a way to avoid the actual policy questions, Trump was moving the discussion back to brass tacks. He was making it possible for America to achieve the immigration policies that countries like Canada and Australia have. They select their immigrants for skills the nation needs and compatibility with the country as it exists now.
But in the end, Trump brought his usual lack of shame and integrity to immigration. First, his overheated rhetoric on the issue, though it won him some loyalty from border hawks, repelled average Americans. Surely his new pollster recently told him as much. He made those core questions of an immigration policy — “Who?” and “How many?” — harder to ask by surrounding them with racial and religious bigotry.