After a lot of criticism over the weekend of his recent remarks about letting the "good" illegal aliens stay, Donald Trump has gone on national media to clarify his remarks about amnesty -- a bit. There is still a lot of confusion about the details of his stance, and it is likely that he has not yet thought about those policy details.
On the basis of the new details he has provided in the last two days, NumbersUSA is changing his amnesty rating from HARMFUL to MIXED on our Worker-Protection Immigration Grade Cards. (See all ratings and grades for 21 Presidential Hopefuls at: www. NumbersUSA.com/2016
With that change and the ratings he has on the other nine immigration categories, Trump has raised his overall grade to a C+, which again puts him in the No. 3 spot among all 21 Presidential Hopefuls of both Parties.
(Rick Santorum earns an A grade, and Scott Walker earns a B-minus as the only Hopefuls whose policy stances on 10 immigration issues are more positive toward American workers and their families.)
Many thanks to all of you Trump supporters who sent messages in one way or another to the Trump campaign to improve what he was saying about legalizing illegal aliens. This is what supporters of every candidate ought to be doing. We provide contact information on each candidate. Just click on the photos on www.NumbersUSA.com/2016.
WHAT TRUMP IS SAYING NOW ABOUT AMNESTY
I'm going to start here by giving you direct quotes from two interviews. Then I'll suggest what these quotes may mean about policy and what questions remain.
This is from the CNN interview with Jake Tapper: (I have edited out parts that don't deal with the question of what Trump's plan would do with illegal aliens who are in this country.)
(TAPPER) Would you be open-minded about a path to citizenship? Is that a nonstarter with you? Where are you on that issue?
(TRUMP) . . . First of all -- and you said it -- you have to stop it (illegal immigration). You have to stop it fast. And we can do that. We can do that with combinations of walls and Border Patrol . . . and fencing.
Once that's done, we have a situation that is going to be done immediately, before that's done. We're going to get the bad ones out. We have some really bad dudes right here in this country, and we're getting them out, and we're sending them back to where they came from. And I don't mean Mexico. I mean, it's -- they come from all over. . . .
(TAPPER) There obviously will be -- will remain, after you get rid of the bad ones, millions and millions of undocumented workers who are not bad ones. And they're women and they're children and they're men who are here who came here for a better life, and -- but you're not going to yet take a position on whether or not you would favor a path to citizenship?
(TRUMP) I will say, from a moral standpoint, from a physical standpoint, you're talking about at least 11 million people. I have heard the number is much higher than that, because that number has been bandied about for years. . . . But we're going to take the high ground. We're going to do what's right. Some (illegal aliens) are going to have to go. And some, we're just going to see what happens. It's a very, very big subject, and a very complicated subject. . . ."
This is from the Fox interview with Hannity: (Also edited for the pertinent content.)
(TRUMP) . . . these (illegal aliens) can be some great people-- but, you either have laws or you don't have laws. I would get them back, I would get them back where they are, and I would try to work out a process where they can come in legally. But, they have to come in legally, it's about laws, it's about borders. If we don't have a border, we don't have a country. So, I get them out, and if they were really outstanding, because some of these people have been here for a long period of time, I'd let them back legally. They have to come through a legal system, and I'd make that system much faster, much quicker. I want people to come into the country. I love the fact that people come into the country, but they have to come in legally. Not only them, other people. We welcome people, I mean, my parents and my grandparents, they came from different parts of the world, too. We all sort of did when you get right down to it. . . .
I would expedite [the process], because some of these people (illegal aliens) are fantastic people. I've been to the border, I was there a few days ago. I met some people, these are fantastic people and they have great reputations within the community. So what I'd do is that I would expedite it. You have to have laws. If you don't have laws, you don't have a country. I would get them out, and I would try, the good ones -- the bad ones, they're gone, they never come back. They'll never get back into this country. But, the good ones, of which there are many, I want to expedite it so they can come back in legally.
WHAT DOES TRUMP MEAN?
This is more difficult. I was talking today with somebody who has spent some time with Trump who emphasized that he does not have real experience with policy and doesn't think in terms of detailed policy. The likelihood is that these comments from him on national TV are things he has thought about but not things that have been worked out in policymaking meetings with staffers and others.
Note that Trump largely sidestepped questions about citizenship. But these two interviews over the last two days -- combined with interviews granted last week about wanting to keep hard-working illegal aliens in the country -- seem to suggest a policy like this:
1. Illegal aliens would not be rewarded with legal status (work permits, benefits, Social Security cards, citizenship, etc.) without at least first leaving the country.
2. No legal status would be granted to those illegal aliens until illegal immigration is brought under control. At a minimum, that includes a fence and adequate Border Patrol activity. He still hasn't said if he would take away the jobs magnet nor has he commented on a number of interior enforcement tools.
3. He would start giving legal status to illegal aliens who have gone home ONLY after the "bad" illegal aliens have been deported from the U.S.
4. Once the prerequisites have been met, he would move quickly to get deserving illegal aliens back into the United States. But who are the deserving ones? Some previous comments suggest that it might be only people who have worked hard (illegally) at U.S. jobs and not used taxpayer assistance. Some people think his comments suggest that only illegal aliens with highly valued skills would be allowed back in. Or maybe it is just anybody who didn't build a criminal record while in the U.S. Depending on the answer to this question, the number allowed back in might be as high as nine million or as low as just tens of thousands, by my estimate.
5. He wants the deserving illegal aliens back in the United States in an expedited fashion. Does that mean there will be additional green cards made available, in which case legal immigration will rise considerably for some time? Or does he want to make the currently available green cards in the current numbers to be given first to the illegal aliens, causing other foreign citizens who are in line to wait more years, in which case the level of legal immigration would remain the same at around 1 million annually?
In general, Trump has described a Touchback Amnesty which was pushed a few years ago by Rep. Mike Pence (now governor of Indiana). At the time, he was one of the hottest rising stars of the conservative movement. Pence's star immediately plummeted upon his championing the Touchback Amnesty, and it took him years to recover political stature.
The difference between Trump's Touchback and Pence's seems to be that Trump has put a lot of "have-to" steps before the amnesty would be given. Those steps might take years.
We may be being generous in giving Trump a Mixed rating on amnesty right now. We will be watching very closely for more signals. We know that he is very, very serious about protecting the American people from tragic violence from illegal aliens. We haven't seen corresponding signs yet that he is thinking about protecting American workers and their families from harmful job and wage competition.
ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Feb 19th 2016 @ 10:34am EST