Published March 7, 2017


Since arriving on the national political scene, Donald Trump has mastered the art of the catch phrase and buzzword.   Truthful or not, the labels he attaches to attack political opponents or to frame societal issues, seem to stick.  Whether it’s his words or his manner of delivery, Trump’s labeling skills have taken him all the way to the White House.   In the realm of immigration, Trump’s words cover a spectrum of positions, ranging from the tough:  “Let’s build a wall…..a big, beautiful wall”,  “they (Mexico) are sending us their rapists and drug dealers” and “we’ve got some bad hombres”….to the compassionate:  “the time is right for an immigration bill, as long as there is compromise”,”( we have)  to  deal with DACA with heart…” and “I suppose there are some good people among the undocumented”.  

But how will Trump’s words be translated into action?  The undocumented in the U.S., as well as some of our country’s lawful immigrants are scared.   Trump’s early Executive Actions no doubt contributed to this feeling, and his initiatives served as a vehicle by which he showed the nation, perhaps the world, that he is the President.  To those who voted for him because of his tough immigration talk, these actions projected the image that he takes illegal immigration, and his constituents, seriously.   But given the gravity of our nation’s immigration problem, i.e. 12 million undocumented people residing here – and the absence of funding to meaningfully address it from an enforcement perspective, I continue to be unconvinced that he can flex our nation’s immigration enforcement arm any more mightily than his predecessor, President Obama.     In sum, it seems Trump’s long game on immigration is a path to legalization, or at least a plan to continue to talk about a path to legalization every once in a while.

Given the nature of an almost-forever loyal constituency, the President merely needs to employ the drama of a few bomb dropping, immigration related Executive Actions, and high profile raids to keep his supporters satisfied when it comes to immigration.     How many more months or years of this sort of drama will be needed to prepare his base for a legalization plan is of course, uncertain.

Speeches like the one he presented to Congress this past week, serve to prepare the nation, and particularly his base, for such a solution.    Of course, as stated, any discussion of legalization, or new immigration ideas –  such as his mention of a merit based immigration system (where job skills or education are favored over family relations), is accompanied by talk of deporting bad hombres and constructing a big, beautiful wall.  In the end, Trump sends a confusing signal and purposely so. 

What is not unclear is that the presidency seems to be a big game for Trump, and the amount of joy he gets from toying with his audiences seems endless.



PUBLISHED March 7, 2017– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2017, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois