Horowitz: The Trump Immigration Debacle

Tuesday, September 06, 2016


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Recognizing that Donald Trump was on a losing path, new Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway and the other members of the Trump inner circle who can do basic math, attempted to orchestrate a ‘softening’ of  the bombastic businessman’s harsh anti-immigration position and rhetoric.  Even if this move was perfectly executed, given that Trump's extreme demagoguery on the issue has been front and center for more than a year, it was still likely to be “too little, too late” to convince Latinos or white college educated moderates and independents that Trump has managed to abandon or at least tone down his racial divisiveness and immigration policy illiteracy and as a result is worth another look.

But Trump made such a mess of his purported immigration policy reboot that whether it would have worked, if well-executed, will remain a hypothetical question.  After more than 10 days of campaign officials and occasionally the candidate himself indicating he was re-thinking aspects of his hard line stance and a trip to Mexico that communicated that same message, he dashed those raised expectations in one fell swoop by delivering an angry, anti-immigration speech that offered no change of tone from his rhetoric in the primary and required a hard look for nuance to see any major changes in policy.  

Trump’s so called immigration policy speech was effusively praised by hardliners including Ann Coulter and former head of the KKK David Duke, and contained so much anti-immigrant and racially charged red meat, if Father Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh could be roused from their graves, they would have been leading the applause. On the other hand, 15-of the-23 members of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council, led to believe he was moving to a more realistic position, resigned in the speech’s wake. Several of the more prominent members spent the day after the speech excoriating Trump in various cable television appearances and media interviews. In a typical response, Ramiro Pena told Politico that he'd have to reconsider being part of a "scam." Recognizing that the speech was a political disaster, RNC Chair Reince Priebus put the word out that other Republicans should not comment on it.

Trump’s scurrying away from his own reboot was signaled by the fact that one of the speech’s introducers was fellow birther Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of racial profiling of Latinos in 2013 and who oversees a law enforcement agency which demonstrated the worst pattern of racial profiling in our nation’s history, according to the Justice Department. In fact, the choice of a rally in Arizona—the site of one of Trump’s most demagogic primary immigration speeches-- as the venue for delivering a supposedly substantive policy speech was a strange one. It was a speech designed to reassure his base that he was staying the course on immigration, pulling the rug out from the effort to expand his support.

Some Trump partisans and a few non-partisan observers have pointed out that he has moved his position from immediately deporting all 12 million undocumented immigrants to targeting about 6 million or so and then taking a pause.  While this appears to be the case, he still is offering no path to legalization. Perhaps more importantly, he continues to paint undocumented immigrants with a broad and inaccurate brush depicting them as violent criminals despite the fact that studies show they commit the same or less crimes proportionately than the rest of the nation.

After nearly two weeks of mixed and confusing signals on immigration, Donald Trump has ended up pretty much where he started. This means, of course, he has failed to solve his basic math problem. That leaves him on the same losing path and with time running out.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


Related Slideshow: Trump Rally in Warwick Rhode Island, April, 2016


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