July 17

The Elephant in the Room: Immigration Reform

In honor of #throwbackthursday, let us go back three years ago to the Senate. The rising young senator from Florida, who also is Hispanic, was going to be the champion of a much needed immigration reform bill. Moreover, he was going to do it in a bipartisan fashion-appeasing both sides of the aisle with a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants, followed by border protection. The “gang of eight,” was led by Republicans: Senator Marco Rubio, Senator John McCain (Arizona), Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona), Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina; and, Democrats: Senator Michael Bennet (Colorado), Senator Richard Durbin (Illinois), Senator Bob Menendez (New Jersey), and Senator Chuck Schumer (New York).

Here is what the bill entailed:

  1. A citizenship path for undocumented immigrants who already live in the United States if certain border security was put in place. Undocumented immigrants would only receive citizenship after legal immigrants received citizenship.
  2. A fast track for non US citizen university graduates who held an advanced degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math. (This is a business immigration reform, tackling how incredibly hard it is to get a working visa).
  3. A new employment verification system.
  4. A better work visa option for low-skilled workers, as well as a different type of work visa for agricultural workers.

This bill looks pretty good right? Wrong. The far right section of the party wanted nothing to do with it, as they believed in no pathway for citizenship, and also wanted the border to be secured first and foremost. While this bill requires border security before the rest of the parts could happen, it was not enough, and many actually want a wall separating Mexico and the United States (especially Sean Hannity).

For this reason, and for his presidential hopes, Senator Marco Rubio quickly abandoned ship, and wanted nothing to do with this bipartisan legislation. What he thought would be the true deal breaker for his career, he soon realized the tea party part of the GOP would forever associate him as someone who did not take a tougher stance on immigration.

Here, enter Donald Trump. Trump is a businessman first and foremost. He knows what will see, and how to market himself. For these reasons, immigration is at the top of his list. He is confident that all immigrants love him, and that he made negative comments about Mexico, not Mexicans. While other politicians are trying to incorporate the immigrant or minority vote by taking a more middle of the road approach, Trump is catering exactly to the group that has been yelling the most loudly, and wants a hard hand to be dealt to deal with the issue. Trump does not care what the minority feels about him, he wants the far right enthusiasts to stand behind him. For this reason, he is number one in the polls. He is saying what many people want to hear, and what offends many other people, and he does not care the consequences because as this week showed, he is number one pick in many nationwide polls.

Creating millions of jobs and kicking out illegal immigrants: this is Donald Trump’s campaign platform. While other candidates, such as Governor Bush, have promised to do this, it is not enough in this group’s eyes. Senator John McCain said this week in an interview that Donald Trump has “fired up the crazies,” but he is in fact wrong. The “crazies” have always been fired up, but now they have a leader who is speaking their mantra and they can follow. Trump went to Phoenix Arizona and stood next to a father whose son had been killed by an illegal immigrant. Photoshop ready, Trump is going to capitalize on an issue many Republicans have been hollering needs to be addressed, and for that reason, he is number one in the polls. While other Republicans believe that there is reform needed, they have not said the words that these people want to hear. Trump crossed the line, and now this group has a candidate to support.