Where Would Trump Be If He Had Run as What He Is: the Amnesty Candidate?

Illegal immigration is essentially a law-enforcement problem (though it has some national security implications, as several law enforcement problems do). Law-enforcement problems are managed by effective allocation of finite resources; we seek to deter crime, we do not hope to obliterate it -- no one who aspires to liberty wants to live in a police state. To deal effectively with illegal immigration, it would not be necessary, practical, or desirable to incur the costs of hunting down 11 million people for the purpose of deporting them.

It would, however, be certifiably insane to incur the costs of hunting down and deporting those 11 million if the ultimate objective were to bring them back into the country.

But that is what Trump proposes to do.

And that’s not the half of it. The purpose of his pointless, ruinously expensive enterprise would be to grant legal status to the returning millions of illegal aliens.

So here is my question: What chance would Donald Trump have had in the race for the Republican presidential nomination if, at the start, he had forthrightly announced:

My plan is to give legal status to most of the many millions of illegal aliens in the United States by allowing them to return legally after we go to the trouble of deporting them. They would be permitted to live here as lawful immigrants, and would ultimately be given a path to American citizenship. While living here legally, they would be permitted to work legally. And they would have access to all the entitlements and other benefits available to legal aliens under federal and state law: Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, Earned Income Tax Credits, unemployment benefits, public school education, housing assistance, food stamps etc.

I suspect Trump would have had no chance to win the nomination if he had explained his intentions clearly -- and if the media had given as much attention to the promise of touch-back amnesty as it did the specter of mass-deportations. Yet, touch-back amnesty -- with the alien required to go home and then come back in legally through an expedited process -- is the essence of his immigration plan. Moreover, Trump’s touch-back amnesty proposal makes a mockery of his campaign’s position paper on immigration. That paper laments “the influx of foreign workers [from illegal immigration]” because it “holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans -- including immigrants themselves and their children -- to earn a middle class wage.”

Nevertheless, his touch-back amnesty plan, by design, would orchestrate an influx of foreign workers on an unprecedentedly massive scale to compete for jobs with poor and working class Americans.