Published October 22, 2016


The final debate, held on October 19, 2016, was an opportunity for Donald Trump to clarify, elaborate on and otherwise detail his vision for how our nation’s immigration problem should be addressed.  With the spotlight shining and 84 million people watching, here is what Donald Trump had to say on the topic:

Well, first of all, she wants to give amnesty, which is a disaster and very unfair to all of the people that are waiting on line for many, many years. We need strong borders.

In the audience tonight, we have four mothers of — I mean, these are unbelievable people that I’ve gotten to know over a period of years whose children have been killed, brutally killed by people that came into the country illegally. You have thousands of mothers and fathers and relatives all over the country. They’re coming in illegally. Drugs are pouring in through the border. We have no country if we have no border.

Hillary wants to give amnesty. She wants to have open borders. The border — as you know, the Border Patrol agents, 16,500-plus ICE last week, endorsed me. First time they’ve ever endorsed a candidate. It means their job is tougher. But they know what’s going on. They know it better than anybody. They want strong borders. They feel we have to have strong borders.

I was up in New Hampshire the other day. The biggest complaint they have — it’s with all of the problems going on in the world, many of the problems caused by Hillary Clinton and by Barack Obama. All of the problems — the single biggest problem is heroin that pours across our southern border. It’s just pouring and destroying their youth. It’s poisoning the blood of their youth and plenty of other people. We have to have strong borders. We have to keep the drugs out of our country. We are — right now, we’re getting the drugs, they’re getting the cash. We need strong borders. We need absolute — we cannot give amnesty.

Now, I want to build the wall. We need the wall. And the Border Patrol, ICE, they all want the wall. We stop the drugs. We shore up the border. One of my first acts will be to get all of the drug lords, all of the bad ones — we have some bad, bad people in this country that have to go out. We’re going to get them out; we’re going to secure the border. And once the border is secured, at a later date, we’ll make a determination as to the rest. But we have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out.

Well, credit can be given to Trump for at least trying to discuss the topic of immigration.  As to actually articulating a position, or even making sense, no credit is deserved. In the passage above, Trump attempted to present a perspective on our immigration problems, referencing his “wall”, strong borders, and how an amnesty would be a “disaster” and unfair to the people waiting “on line for many years”.  He also spent half of these few minutes speaking about drugs, a topic that truly has little or nothing to do with our immigration problems.  In contrast to Hilary Clinton, Trump failed to provide any specifics on a plan whatsoever, although he vaguely referenced his inclination to favor a legalization program of sorts after he “secures the border” and “getting out……bad hombres”.  Clinton, on the other hand, reiterated in detail her definite support for a plan that features a path to legalization for our nation’s undocumented, the strengthening of our border and the continued deportation of violent criminals.

Most notably, Trump failed to reassert his previous, campaign-defining threat to deport all undocumented immigrants in this country.  To be sure, the threats he uttered in the past were anything but subtle, and to his biggest and angriest supporters, this was his hallmark position.  Further, during the Republican presidential debates, on this very point he took a sledge hammer to his opponents’ heads, since, as he proclaimed, no candidate other than he proudly and loudly asserted a plan to round up our nation’s undocumented.   Since getting the Republican nomination though, as he has on many of his previous positions and utterances, he’s walked back a bit.  Now, Trump is back to taking a “wait and see” approach on what to do with our nation’s undocumented.

The truth is that Trump never meant what he said about rounding up and deporting our nation’s undocumented.   It was just music to the ears of his angry, blame pointing demographic.  What he says about amnesty and Clinton’s alleged open borders position is pure nonsense, since in the end Clinton is for certain NOT someone in favor of open borders. However, what both Clinton AND Trump ultimately would favor indeed adds up to an amnesty.  Despite what Trump or anyone else want to call it, a plan to allow the millions of undocumented in the U.S. to gain legal status, also known as a path to legalization or path to citizenship,  is in truth an amnesty.  By definition, whether it be a Clinton “path to legalization”, or the Trump “leave the U.S. and reenter the right way” solution,  the plan allows individuals to benefit from breaking the law and is unavoidably disrespectful to the people who have followed the rules and waited, sometimes a lifetime, to enter the U.S. legally. (in truth, for the vast majority of the undocumented population, there is no actual “line” or legal vehicle to gain entry to live in the U.S.).   But something has to give, and in contrast to the clear practical drawbacks and financially disastrous costs of a mass round up, a path to legalization, as realized by both candidates,  is the lesser of two evils and will yield the most societal benefit.

No one in the history of recent presidential campaigns will ever dispute the importance of “first securing our borders”.   It’s a safe, indisputable principle that can mean a lot of different things, and both Clinton and Trump are pretty much on the same page.  But candidate Trump is especially aware of the attraction of this message to many in the U.S., with the concept of a border wall being the sweetest sucking candy he can serve up to his audience.   As to deporting “bad hombres”, laws are indeed already on the books, and robust enforcement in this regard is being carried out – with President Obama’s administration’s deportation numbers being greater than any of his modern day predecessors.   Of course there will always be people a large system misses, and for certain, we can leave it to Trump to point out the inevitable holes and the most tragic, sensational consequences.

Not that I would agree with him in any way, but I sure would respect Donald Trump a bit more if he stood by his original position on immigration.   But when a candidate enthusiastically and forcefully presents a position in March in order to win favor with his electorate and distinguish himself from his opponents, but by October completely reverses course and abandons this position, it would be reasonable to conclude you could not trust a thing the guy has to say.



PUBLISHED October 22, 2016– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2016, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois