Why do we ask? And why particularly of Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton? While the devil is always in the details, it is clear that Secretary Clinton has a more favorable view of immigration and has laid out a fairly clear strategy for how she would reform the current system.
But the question of what Mr. Trump would prioritize on immigration, should he be elected to hold the highest office in our nation, remains unclear. First he called for massive, yet “humane” and “nice” deportation of the estimated 11+ million undocumented individuals in this country. He has also repeatedly reaffirmed that a wall must be built along the southern border. He has noted that he wants people (who are deported) to come back legally because “they want to be legalized.” The candidate has also said that in the wall, there will be a “tremendous beautiful wide open door.” (Donald Trump on mass deportation).
Recently however, reports have Mr. Trump possibly “softening” his stance on immigration noting that “to take a person who has been here for 15-20 years and to throw them out is a very, very hard thing.” The outline of a plan appears to have similarities to proposals made by former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who Mr. Trump previously criticized as “weak on immigration.” Yet there does not yet seem to be any clear and definitive proposals of what his immigration policy would look like in actuality.
As immigration attorneys, any position that the new administration takes on immigration will affect our practice and the future of our clients. If Congress takes another stab at desperately needed reform of our current immigration laws, that legislation will require presidential signature for enactment. The new president’s position on the undocumented population, future immigration flows, enforcement and security will have a profound impact.
In addition, President Obama’s current executive initiatives are also at stake as his successor will have sole discretion as to whether the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other modernization efforts will continue.
Immigration law is complicated. There is no question our immigration system is outdated and unworkable. Families continue to be separated and employers are prevented from hiring or keeping talent to remain competitive in a global economy. Our immigration laws are so complex that they have been described as second only to the labyrinthine tax code. No presidential candidate will have a complete understanding of immigration law, but he or she should have at least a thorough understanding of the big policy challenges of our current system and the hurdles that effect families and employers.
The position that each major party’s candidate takes is of particular importance as it would seemingly represent the position of his or her party. In Mr. Trump’s case, even though many members of his party have already publicly noted they do not subscribe to his views on immigration, his words do have weight. We need to hear the candidate take a firm and clear view on his position on immigration and I look forward to tonight’s speech and to hearing this policy framework.
By coming forward with a clear policy, Mr. Trump will allow the American public to consider his plans and then weigh the outcome of those plans against the clear need to revamp our immigration laws in a way that addresses the future of the undocumented population and allows employers to be competitive and thrive in a global economy.
I doubt he will have any drastic changes to his past positions on immigration, which provide no path forward for the undocumented who would follow the process, if only there were a process for them. I sincerely hope that Republican voters reject a candidate who claims to speak for them with little but hatred and fearmongering, because the GOP has previously spoken for the values and beliefs that make this country great – the importance of family unity, of innovation and shared prosperity, and welcoming refugees.
Other Republican candidates in races across the country will have a chance to respond to Mr. Trump’s speech in a way that reassures all Americans, as well as the members of their communities living anxiously in the shadows, that the GOP still believes in our American values of family unity and a fair opportunity to be included. We will all be listening.
Written by Annaluisa Padilla, AILA President-Elect