Trump’s Immigration Plan Illustrates Campaign Divides

Ever since Donald Trump issue via Executive Order his immigration plan (including the temporary refugee ban) it has felt like 2016 campaign is being fought all over again.  Charges of racism and xenophobia are flying while millions of Americans argue the order is needed to better control our borders and maintain our security in dangerous times.

During the election, Donald Trump faced a significant amount of criticism over his ideas to enact “extreme vetting.”  Likewise, the same was said of his desire to build a border wall.  But, ironically, during the campaign the sentiment did not seem to be that shared among immigrants actually (the ones most likely to be impacted).

According to a Morning Consult poll take in early August of last year, 62 percent of immigrants strongly or somewhat supported Trump’s ideas for an ideological test for immigrants and temporarily banning immigration from countries with a history of state sponsored terrorism.  Interestingly enough, Trump’s ideas were most popular with 1st generation immigrants.

Now, a single poll taken on ideological bereft of many policy details is one thing.  Recent polls taken on Trump’s plan since implemented have varied significantly though and support has never come close to 60 percent or more.

For example, a recent Reuters poll found support eclipsed opposition.  That said, CNN and CBS surveys have found the opposite.  One notable thing from the polls is they reflect the divisions from the campaign almost perfectly.  Support for the temporary ban and restrictions are strongest among whites without college degrees and that support drops off as education levels increase.

Trump found his strongest support during the campaign among non-college educated whites.  Many of these whites were former immigrants that were strongly Democratic until subsequent generations experienced political and policy shifts.

By contrast, Clinton, and Democrats, have benefited from recent waves of immigration like Puerto Rican immigration in Florida and Korean immigration in Southern California.  Notably, none of those places have issues with terrorism or have sponsored it however.

The debate over Trump’s plans have moved beyond a flawed roll-out as the philosophical and economic merits of the plan become debated.  In many ways this debate reflects the cultural divisions laid bare during the campaign.

Take the arguments of WA State and Minnesota vs. the Department of Justice.  Attorneys for both states argue the idea has a chilling impact on business and negatively impacts all aspects of many lives.  The Department of Justice argues the Establishment Clause gives them the authority to take such an action owing to the federal government’s duty to provide for national defense (hence, controlling the borders).

Such arguments reflect the coalitions Trump and Clinton assembled along geographic and cultural lines.  Clinton did well on the Coasts and in big cities where major companies operate.  These places benefit from immigrants and thus see refugees as resources.  However, in rural areas and the Midwest where Trump did strongest, the same feelings are not shared.  Many of these voters feel ignored in favor of cosmopolitanism and having their views on immigration ignored because the coasts support immigration for being a good unto itself.

Ultimately, there are real life impacts whatever course is decided upon.  An implemented ban will make it tougher for companies in the short-term.  Likewise, refugees and immigrants may have to wait longer to enter the US.  But, that has to be weighed against the very valid argument the US does have a right to control its own borders.

The left will say that immigration, like trade, has benefits unto itself.  But that is an inherently personal and moral argument.  Yes, helping refugees and immigrants is a moral action and makes one feel good.  But the practical impact is far different.  Just witness how Texan schools have struggled to cope with the influx of Central American children.  Or the social costs and divisions created when you inject a different group of people with different beliefs and institutions into an existing hierarchy.

Trump and many Republicans are far too inarticulate to be able to espouse these viewpoints.  Many Republicans won’t for fear of sounding heartless.  But they are valid points to make.  And, of all people, Trump is the one making it happen with his pen.

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