In the last week, Donald Trump’s inaccuracy-ridden immigration plan has consumed the national political discussion. While my colleague Dave Bier analyzed the plan’s economic faults at the Huffington Post, in a Townhall op-ed I highlight what’s been lost in the Trump madness: the GOP progress on earned legal status.
Republican candidates Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham all support some path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. In my op-ed I review how earned legal status is in line with the thinking of immigration experts, coheres with views held by a majority of GOP voters, and would promote economic growth.
An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. Offering them earned legal status would be a step in the right direction in addressing this group.
Undocumented immigrants who apply for legal status would undergo background checks, pay taxes and a penalty, show English proficiency, and have to document that they have lived in the United States for a long time.
Earned legal status was offered in 1986. Economists found that immigrants with the changed status increased their earnings 6 to 13 percent. Under a new round of legalization, similar earnings increases would raise GDP, job growth, and revenue for local and state governments.
But despite the progress in Republican thinking, Trump dominates the headlines. Fortunately, his plan is going nowhere. It would be a complete nonstarter if introduced by Congress and is rejected by the leaders of both parties, in addition to the American people, according to public opinion polling. It’s unreasonable, unrealistic, unworkable, uneconomical, and inhumane. Its outrageous cost, unpopularity, illegality, and cruelty have been documented ad nauseam this week in the popular press.
The true danger that emerges from such a plan is twofold. First, it can embolden other candidates to be more brazen in their restrictionist ideas. Trump has blazed a path and allowed candidates to trend more to the ultraconservative and hawkish right when it comes to immigration policy. Candidates hoping to receive general-election support should avoid this extremism.
Second, Trump has altered the conversation for Republicans. Instead of discussing earned legal status, the candidates are talking about birthright citizenship and deportation of entire families.
The emphasis for Republicans should remain on their progress in thinking about undocumented immigrants. The party still has a long way to go, but its progress is clear and deserves recognition.
According to Bush, “This country does not do well when people lurk in the shadows.” The other four pro-immigrant candidates echo similar sentiments. The Republican candidates should avoid Trump’s mass-deportation nonsense, and the media should focus on earned legal status as a major element in the 2016 race, not the Trump circus.
Read my op-ed here and read Dave Bier’s economic analysis here.