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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 9:15 am | Fair 52º


Joe Guzzardi: What Donald Trump Could Have Said About Immigration, But Didn’t

The instant that Donald Trump announced that he revised — some say softened — his immigration stance, he managed to accomplish two things, both detrimental to his election hopes.

First, Trump promised that illegal immigrants would have “to pay back taxes” to stay in the United States, and therefore critics should not construe his plan as “amnesty per se.” But Trump turned off a large part of his base that recognized his deceptive language as straight from the Senate Gang of Eight amnesty play book, a red flag to enforcement advocates.

And second, what Trump may have perceived that Hispanic voter outreach will be fruitless. Hispanics vote Democrat, and Trump cannot move further to the left on immigration than Hillary Clinton.

Trump said his altered immigration vision came about because his Hispanic advisers warned that deporting 12 million aliens is impossible. They insisted on knowing the eventual fate of 12 million aliens which, according to the media, is the nation’s “core problem.”

In the days leading up to his self-destructive proclamation, Trump rejected sound — and achievable — recommendations from his insider team. The “core problem,” they told Trump, is assuring that today’s 12 million don’t become the next decade’s 24 million.

To that end, Trump could have stated that before specifically considering what he would do with the current illegal immigration population, he would institute Phase One of his enforcement-oriented administration: Secure the border; end catch and release, President Barack Obama’s self-defeating policy of apprehending illegal border crossers and, instead of returning them home, releasing them into the general public; restore work place enforcement; mandate E-Verify, which ensures that only citizens and legal immigrants hold American jobs; implement a sensible refugee resettlement program; and end the pointless diversity visa and the terrorist-facilitating visa waiver program.

Other widely abused visas should also be eliminated or severely restricted: the J, supposedly to encourage cultural exchange, but in reality a vehicle that big businesses use to hire cheap summer help, the K fiancé visa that paved the way for San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik, and the L that displaces American workers under the guise of corporate transfers from abroad.

Make sure that guest worker visas — about 750,000 annually — are given only to industries that have a true labor shortage, and not those that create an artificial void by their unwillingness to pay a living wage.

Phase Two: implement legislation already passed by Congress, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 and the airport biometric entry-exit tracking system, introduced two decades ago that will guarantee that visitors will go home, and not overstay as more than 40 percent do.

Once that laundry list of sensible immigration reforms is completed then, and only then, Trump could turn his attention existing illegal immigrants.

As for Trump’s pledge that illegal immigrants will pay back taxes in exchange for legal residency, the challenge to determine what they might owe, and to collect it would be insurmountable.

According to a 2007 Congressional Budget Office review report, at least half of illegal workers already have income and payroll taxes withheld. Among those who don’t, many would not owe back income tax because they didn’t make enough money.

Some could be eligible for earned income tax credits. And while the unlawful immigrants would owe back Social Security and Medicare taxes, so would the employers who illegally hired them. Good luck retroactively collecting those.

In short, with his immigration change-of-heart Trump managed, as he so often does, to appease few, but anger many.

— Joe Guzzardi is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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