The wall first, then the rest
Authentic immigration reform will be Job 1 for the new president
Every new president comes to Washington with two lists. The first is a list of things he would like to do. That’s his wish list. He knows he won’t get to some of the items. Those are the things that are possible but not probable in his first four years. This is the list he keeps to himself. The second list is much shorter, the things he must get done to make everything else possible. That’s his “must-do list.”
Ronald Reagan put three things on his “must-do” list: revive the American economy, win the Cold War, and restore America’s pride in itself. None of it was easy. All of it was accomplished. Bill Clinton’s list included fixing the economy, expanding free trade, and reforming the nation’s healthcare system. He didn’t accomplish as much as the Gipper, with Hillary’s health-care fiasco the failure No. 1. But he won re-election with less than a majority in a three-man race.
Barack Obama promised “hope and change,” keeping everything deliberately vague until he got to the White House. It became quickly evident why he didn’t want to identify the change, because he was determined to cut America down to size and recast it as a version of the European welfare state. He didn’t accomplish all that, but he did a lot of damage with his leading from behind.
President-elect Donald Trump has lists, and it’s not yet clear all that’s on them, but every day there are hints. He, too, inspires hope, this time for positive change. Building a wall on the border with Mexico, whether of brick and mortar or with advanced electronics, he has not said, but it’s on the list closest to his heart. Tough talk on illegal immigration was his signature campaign promise, and immigration was the issue that made him different from all the other candidates in the Republican primaries. If he fails to follow through on “the wall” he’ll have a tough time holding his fan base together.
Like all presidents, he has a little wiggle room. But not much. He may not make the Mexicans pay for the wall, but that was more a good applause line than a reasonable expectation. No negotiator puts out his bottom line first. That’s the heart of the art of the deal. But “the wall” remains the No. 1 issue within Republican expectations, according to some of the latest polls.
More than 37 percent of Republicans polled by Rasmussen say they expect the wall to be built in the first year of the Trump presidency. That’s down from 42 percent in April of 2016, and from 51 percent 15 months ago, when the Donald first broached the idea during the Republican primaries.
With or without the wall Americans are skeptical that the new president and the Republican Congress can get ahead of the problems posed by uncontrolled illegal immigration. Barack Obama’s curious idea of leadership snuffed the hopes of millions for the right kind of change. He saw immigration “reform” only as a way to get millions of prospective Democratic voters into the country, which would have assured the left of control of everything for a generation.
With the election, that kind of comprehensive immigration reform has been tossed to the trash, where it belongs. Mr. Trump’s wall can be part of a concentrated effort to crack down on illegal immigration and to secure the border, the necessary first steps for bringing order out of chaos. The rest can come later. The wall first, then the rest.