Thursday, August 27, 2015

Worst Plan Ever

Donald Trump's immigration plan has been dealt with comprehensively in this piece by FiveThirtyEight, which I highly recommend you read.  But I'd like to specifically address the most outrageous aspect of the plan - deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants.

I generally agree with what Charles Krauthammer has to say on the subject.  Namely, that it will never happen and even if it were possible, it's the wrong thing to do.

I try to avoid hyperbole on this blog and I try not to be outraged if I can help it.  So here is my calm, rational argument for why Trump's plan to round up and deport millions of people is reprehensible.

1) It shouldn't be possible.

Illegal immigrants do not generally leave a paper trail the way a typical criminal might.  The only way to catch an illegal immigrant is to ask them for their passport or visa, and when they can't produce one, to arrest them and begin the deportation process.  Randomly checking for papers is about the most un-American thing I can think of.  Unless a person has committed a crime, they should not be stopped by police, and law enforcement officials should not be knocking on your door without a warrant.  (For the record, I do not oppose deportation of violent felons.)

And in fact, this is the primary reason that mass deportations have not yet occurred.  If you know of a way to find the 11 million people who are undocumented without invading the privacy of the 300 million who are here legally, I'd be interested to hear your plan.  But even if it were possible, I still wouldn't support deporting all illegal immigrants.

2) The punishment doesn't fit the crime

Some argue that undocumented immigrants have committed a "crime" by crossing the border or by overstaying their visas, and therefore should be subject to prosecution under the law.  But is breaking up families and sending them "back" to a country they may never have known a just punishment for crossing a border in search of a better life?  Unlike the murderer or the rapist, an illegal immigrant may be just the type of person we want in our communities - getting here despite the obstacles proves that they are hard working, dedicated, and willing to take risks, attributes normally associated with a successful member of a capitalist society.  A fine or requirement to pay back-taxes would be more congruent with the infraction.

3) We decide what is a crime

Immigration laws are a construct of our society to maintain order.  We as a country have the power and ability to say that anyone who makes it here can stay (like we do with Cuban immigrants).  In the extreme, we could even have a wide open door with no border checkpoints.  While I think it makes sense to maintain the integrity of our borders for national security purposes, we should make legal immigration much easier and much more common.

4) It would be bad for the economy

We depend on young, healthy people to provide cheap labor, keep the social security system solvent, pay health insurance premiums to offset the costs incurred by the elderly, and to drive consumption, which keeps the economic engine rumbling.  What would happen if 11 million of our most productive workers were suddenly ejected from the country?  A shock of that magnitude would send the stock market into a free fall and plunge our country into a recession if not a depression.

5) It is disproportionately focused on Mexican immigrants

In 2010, Arizona's SB 1070 (which was an attempt to do locally what Trump is essentially advocating nationally) was the subject of heated debate because many thought it encouraged racial profiling.  While the Supreme Court ultimately upheld portions of the law and overturned others, the controversy reminded us that it's difficult to assert you have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is an illegal immigrant without relying on cues related to ethnicity.

From a purely political perspective, the optics are not in Trump's favor and it is bad for the GOP to be associated with a plan that is rife with racial undertones.  Republicans will need Hispanic voters to win future elections, and if Romney's use of the phrase "self-deportation" was enough to turn the bloc against the 2012 nominee, Trump's plan (along with his bombastic style) is sure to alienate them, which so far seems to be the case.

I could go on.  I'm frankly baffled by Trump's 30% support in the polls, but hopefully the numbers don't indicate public approval of his immigration plan, but rather enthusiasm for his persona.  It's early in the campaign and there's still reason to believe that sanity will prevail and voters will wise up.

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