Trump's Immigration Proposals: Deport Millions, Build a Wall, Change the Constitution?
Donald Trump, the current leader of the GOP presidential race, released an immigration position paper weeks ahead of schedule, detailing the billionaire candidate's stance on undocumented immigrants, birthright citizenship, and the economy. Needless to say, Trump's views -- even on paper -- are polarizing.
Weeks before he planned to release a paper detailing his position on immigration, and just days after announcing he would, the presidential hopeful, reality TV celebrity real estate billionaire, and summer-long leader of the Republican presidential polls, Donald Trump, published a six-page report called "Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again."
The paper details major changes that Trump says he will make as president in U.S. relations with Mexico, policy for both documented and undocumented immigrants, and even maybe the U.S. Constitution.
Beginning by attacking the notion of immigration reform itself, calling it a political euphemism for "amnesty, cheap labor and open borders" and "a giveaway to the corporate patrons who run both parties," Trump then outlines his fundamental philosophy regarding immigration in the U.S.:
1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.
2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.
3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.
Before outlining his proposals, Trump first reiterates some of the most controversial statements about undocumented immigrants he made in his announcement speech for his candidacy. Trump argues that undocumented immigration has cost Americans jobs, lowered the standard of living for black Americans, broken the healthcare, housing, education, and welfare systems, and has resulted in "horrific crimes against Americans."
Trump backed up the last sweeping statement by recounting -- in surprisingly gory detail for a policy paper written by a presidential candidate -- a heinous home invasion, rape and murder that one undocumented immigrant from Mexico has recently been charged with.
Big Presidential Plans
Inevitably, the first item on Trump's agenda is the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border he plans to build. And yes, he still plans to "make Mexico pay" for its construction.
Though President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration has said it would not pay for a permanent border wall, Trump believes Mexico can pay, and that he will make it do so.
In the paper, Trump argues that "Mexico continues to make billions not only on our bad trade deals but relies heavily on the billions of dollars in remittances sent home from illegal immigrants in the United States back to Mexico."
"Remittance" is another word for the money earned by immigrants in the U.S. that they send back to support family members.
Trump points to a $22 billion figure of total remittances sent back to families in Mexico in 2013 as part of why Mexico can afford to foot the bill for a wall, though how he would plan to "impound" those private funds from immigrant workers remains unclear; especially because Trump also said he plans to deport all undocumented workers from the country if elected president.
Along those lines, Trump also proposed to end local undocumented immigrant prerogatives by cutting off all so-called "sanctuary cities" from federal grants, increase ICE cooperation with local gang task forces, and implement a nationwide e-verify system for any form of employment. He also advocated detention of all "illegal aliens apprehended crossing the border ... until they are sent home," ending the practice of "catch and release."
Trump also proposed to triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the country to approximately 15,000. One might wonder if even that number of ICE officials would be enough, considering the agency would be tasked by the hypothetical President Trump with finding, arresting, and deporting over 11 million people from the U.S.
Among some of the more moderate proposals at the end of the paper are ideas to increase wages for H-1B visas, which some on both sides of the political aisle have argued contributes to Silicon Valley's restrictive hiring practices when it comes to underrepresented U.S. minorities. He also proposed requiring companies to hire "American workers first" rather than rely on H-1B visa recipients and generally tamping down several aspects of the legal immigration system.
Trump's Constitutional Amendment
But one of Trump's biggest plans for immigration could become quite controversial because it would likely involve a rewrite of the U.S. Constitution.
In his position paper, Trump promises he would "end birthright citizenship," arguing the policy "remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration" and that by a two-to-one margin (according to one Rasmussen poll taken in 2011) "voters say it's the wrong policy" to "give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants."
Besides nullifying U.S. and state laws and overturning U.S. case law and Supreme Court decisions built over the last century and a half, such an initiative would require amending the U.S. Constitution itself.
That's because the Fourteenth Amendment -- a foundational document for the United States' modern era, adopted soon after the Civil War -- clearly stands in the way of this Trump initiative.
In fact, it's rather prominently and clearly stated in the first sentence of the first section (emphasis mine):
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Not An Easy Process
So it seems Trump's moratorium on birthright citizenship would require a new Constitutional amendment to modify parts of the 14th Amendment, or otherwise find a way to undo case law going back to the 19th century that supports birthright citizenship for children of immigrants, including the undocumented.
An amendment to the Constitution -- for those who are a little rusty on their highschool civics -- requires two-thirds majority votes from both the House of Representatives and Senate. That double-super majority is just to officially propose the amendment. To be ratified, you need the affirmation from three-fourths of the states (the current size of the Union requiring 38 states out of 50).
It's a long, difficult process that usually fails far before completion -- by design, since the framers wanted to put the bar extraordinarily high to make any fundamental changes to the country's founding document.
For example, the most recent amendment to be proposed and ratified was the 26th Amendment, a relatively uncontroversial measure lowering the voting age to 18 years old, in 1971. On the other hand, the most recent amendment to be ratified -- the 27th, in 1992 -- was originally proposed in the first session of the First United States Congress in 1789, before the ink on the U.S. Constitution had dried. That one took a little over 202 years to pass.
Trump currently leads the Republican primary polls, but he would have to round up a lot more support than a summer hot-streak to see this particular proposal succeed.
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