Trump draws a new hard line

He urged cuts to le­gal im­mi­grants in an­tic­i­pated speech

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By David Lauter and Brian Ben­nett Los An­ge­les Times re­porter Lisa Mas­caro contributed.

WASH­ING­TON — Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion speech gen­er­ated in­tense spec­u­la­tion about whether he would soften his hard line on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, but in­stead, the real change came with his un­ex­pected, full-throated ad­vo­cacy of a long-term cut­back on le­gal im­mi­grants.

Trump had pre­vi­ously flirted with the idea of cut­ting le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, but Wed­nes­day’s speech in Phoenix marked his first public em­brace of the full re­stric­tion­ist po­si­tion.

Trump broke sharply from the Repub­li­can Party’s long-stand­ing po­si­tions and adopted the most openly na­tivist plat­form of any ma­jor party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in decades.

If Trump is elected, the shift he ad­vo­cates would greatly re­duce im­mi­gra­tion over­all and move the U.S. from an im­mi­gra­tion phi­los­o­phy of al­low­ing strivers from around the world to take ad­van­tage of Amer­i­can op­por­tu­ni­ties to one fo­cused on bring­ing in peo­ple who al­ready have money and job skills.

That view­point is deeply di­vi­sive within the GOP — an­other ex­am­ple of the stress that Trump’s cam­paign has put on the party.

“This kind of em­pha­sis on deal­ing with le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in this way is not some­thing a ma­jor nom­i­nee has done in the last 60 years,” said Roy Beck, the head of Num­ber­sUSA, an ad­vo­cacy group for im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tion that helped lead op­po­si­tion to a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion over­haul in 2013. “It was great.”

Af­ter four decades of high lev­els of im­mi­gra­tion, Trump said, the coun­try Don­ald Trump, seen Thurs­day in Cincin­nati, Ohio, called Wed­nes­day for im­mi­gra­tion lev­els “within his­toric norms.” needs to “con­trol fu­ture im­mi­gra­tion” to “en­sure as­sim­i­la­tion.”

The goal should be “to keep im­mi­gra­tion lev­els, mea­sured by pop­u­la­tion share, within his­toric norms,” he said. Groups that call for a re­turn to “his­toric norms” of­ten point to the 1960s and 1970s, when the for­eign-born share of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion fell to about one in 20, rather than one in eight as it is to­day.

Trump’s call was a ma­jor vic­tory for ad­vo­cates of im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tion, led by Sen. Jeff Ses­sions of Alabama, an in­flu­en­tial ad­viser who trav­eled to Mexico and Phoenix with Trump on Wed­nes­day and whose for­mer staff mem­bers have shaped Trump’s po­si­tions.

Ses­sions has long fought to cut over­all im­mi­gra­tion lev­els, ar­gu­ing that high rates of im­mi­gra­tion de­press wages for Amer­i­can work­ers.

The U.S. ad­mits about one mil­lion le­gal im­mi­grants a year, and the for­eign-born share of the pop­u­la­tion is now at the high­est point since the early 1920s.

Get­ting back any­where close to the lev­els of the ’60s and ’70s would re­quire cut­ting im­mi­gra­tion to a trickle and keep­ing it re­stricted for decades. Congress would have to pass new laws for that to hap­pen, al­though a Pres­i­dent Trump could take some steps to re­duce le­gal im­mi­gra­tion us­ing his own author­ity, noted for­mer im­mi­gra­tion com­mis­sioner Doris Meiss­ner.

Ses­sions and his al­lies have called, for ex­am­ple, for end­ing the visa lot­tery that al­lows about 50,000 peo­ple a year to im­mi­grate and has been a ma­jor way for peo­ple to come to the U.S. from Africa and Asia. Ad­vo­cates for greater re­stric­tion have also called for elim­i­nat­ing le­gal pro­vi­sions that al­low nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zens to bring their par­ents and adult sib­lings to the U.S.

In ad­di­tion to the cuts in le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, Trump pledged to build a wall along the bor­der with Mexico, ag­gres­sively step up ef­forts to de­tain and de­port im­mi­grants convicted of crimes, com­plete a long­planned ef­fort to ac­cu­rately track en­try and exit visas, greatly ex­pand the size of the Bor­der Pa­trol and the im­mi­gra­tion ser­vice and cut off fed­eral money to cities and other lo­cal gov­ern­ments that fail to co­op­er­ate with fed­eral en­force­ment ef­forts.

Those moves would come with a hefty price tag. Most of those steps would cost $40 bil­lion or more over five years, the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice has es­ti­mated. That doesn’t in­clude the cost of the wall, which Trump has said would cost $8 bil­lion, but which out­side groups have said could be triple that price.

Un­der his plan, the U.S. would move away from the cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, which em­pha­sizes fam­ily uni­fi­ca­tion, and al­lo­cate fewer visas, based on a per­son’s abil­ity to con­trib­ute to the U.S. econ­omy.

Busi­ness groups al­lied with the GOP, such as the Cham­ber of Com­merce, as well as the high-tech in­dus­try, have called for giv­ing out more visas to peo­ple with high eco­nomic po­ten­tial, but they’ve gen­er­ally ad­vo­cated do­ing that in ad­di­tion to fam­ily uni­fi­ca­tion, rather than in place of it.

Be­cause the over­all num­bers would be lower un­der Trump’s plan, “we would be an older, in­creas­ingly whiter” coun­try and “one that’s not go­ing to be able to be sup­ported as well,” said Wil­liam Frey, a lead­ing de­mog­ra­pher based at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. “The only way we’re go­ing to have con­tin­ued growth in our younger pop­u­la­tion and our la­bor force is con­tin­ued im­mi­gra­tion” to off­set the ag­ing of the na­tion’s na­tive-born white pop­u­la­tion.

AARON P. BERN­STEIN/GETTY

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