DeSantis Releases His Immigration Plan: Is It Better Than Trump’s?
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When Ron DeSantis unveiled his immigration plan on June 26, it provoked the hoped-for reaction. The Leftist Regime Media denounced it as the toughest plan offered by a GOP presidential candidate, while patriots praised it for that very reason. But while the plan is certainly solid on illegal immigration, it fails to mention legal immigration. It also lacked crucial elements central to Donald Trump’s immigration pitch. DeSantis is smart to emphasize immigration in the 2024 race, but he must do more to prove he’s the staunchest immigration patriot in the field.

DeSantis’ STOP THE INVASION is full of solid proposals, some of them long advocated by

STOP THE INVASION even says he’ll push to end Birthright Citizenship:

DeSantis will take action to end the idea that the children of illegal aliens are entitled to Birthright Citizenship if they are born in the United States. Dangling the prize of citizenship to the future offspring of illegal immigrants is a major driver of illegal migration. It is also inconsistent with the original understanding of 14th Amendment, and DeSantis will force the courts and Congress to finally address this failed policy.

What action that might be, and whether DeSantis is committed to a full repeal of Birthright Citizenship, is unclear. But at least he suggests it, which is superior to most other Republicans.

Leftist reporters at his news conference in Eagle Pass, Texas, fumed when he suggested using lethal force to repel the invaders and cartel smugglers. But DeSantis stood firm:

“We will use all levers at our disposal to win the fight,” DeSantis said. “If somebody is breaking through the border wall—which they are doing in other parts—demonstrating hostile intent or hostile action, you have to be able to meet that with the appropriate use of force.”

When pressed by a reporter if that meant shooting at someone, DeSantis replied, “Of course, of course you use deadly force. I mean how would you let somebody—I mean, would you just let someone break into your house and do you harm?”  

[DeSantis pitches crackdown on illegal immigration in first major policy proposal of his campaign, by Steve Contorno and Kit Maher, CNN, June 27, 2023]

That was a strong answer. And a good one. Of course nothing is wrong with using lethal force at the border, considering the dangerous criminals who shepherd illegals and drugs into the United States. A homeowner has the right to defend his house from an armed robber; a nation has a right to stop an invasion. The Israelis have defended their borders with lethal force for years, although the U.S. media doesn’t seem to have noticed. (The Israelis also have a border wall!)

DeSantis’ failure even to mention legal immigration is the glaring omission and major disappointment of his immigration platform. Trump hasn’t mentioned it either, but at least he touted reductions in his 2016 platform, which helped solidify his reputation as the crowded GOP field’s immigration patriot. DeSantis failed to seize this opportunity, despite previously implying he favors legal immigration restrictions. (His supporters say he might release a separate platform, in the future.)

DeSantis intends to outflank Trump on the right. He didn’t name Trump in his speech, but some lines were clearly designed to tweak the former president. The Florida governor said he would offer “no excuses” for not accomplishing his immigration goals. He criticized the failure to build the wall, pointing out literal holes in the barrier:

“I was in Arizona the other day. You have like—wall, then it just kind of stops,” he said.

[DeSantis takes aim at Trump on immigration, by Sally Goldenberg, Politico, June 26, 2023]

Trump retorted that DeSantis plagiarized him. “Well, his plan is my plan,” Trump told reporters. “He’s basically copied everything I said—catch and release, finish the wall” [Trump: DeSantis ‘basically copied everything I said’ on immigration, by Julia Shapero, The Hill, June 28, 2023]. Even Leftist observers agreed. Vox’s Nicole Narea observed that the two plans were “almost identical” and reinforce the governor’s image as a Trump copycat:

[W]hile DeSantis is running to Trump’s right on issues including abortion and Covid-19, he hasn’t really broken new ground on immigration. And that might be a problem for the governor, who is struggling to carve out a unique lane in the primary and articulate to Republican primary voters who don’t seem all that concerned about the former president’s legal troubles why he’s a better bet.

[DeSantis keeps looking like a Trump copycat, June 27, 2023]

Indeed, finding the differences in the two plans is difficult. Trump ended Catch-And-Release and created Remain in Mexico. He’s long called for ending Birthright Citizenship. His administration issued orders to defund Sanctuary Cities, but kritarchs kept blocking him. Trump also had to declare a National Emergency to get wall funding in the face of strong Republican opposition. He got billions for the project, but it wasn’t enough. Biden ended construction, which explains many of the gaps left behind. Trump could’ve done more and done it earlier to build a wall. But we can’t pretend he did nothing.

At any rate, endorsing reductions on legal immigration, or better, an immigration moratorium, would have set DeSantis apart from Trump. He missed a perfect chance to separate himself from the former president.

Trump still has an advantage over DeSantis in two important areas.

  • Trump has an explicit plan to end Birthright Citizenship: issuing an Executive Order declaring it null.

That is a bold idea, and might be the only way to end it even with a GOP Congress: the party has notoriously been  too cowardly to do anything positive on immigration. An Executive Order would force the courts to address the matter, and therefore, offers the potential of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In contrast, DeSantis doesn’t offer an explicit plan to revoke Birthright Citizenship, but instead just implies that he’ll try to do something.

  • Trump vows to mount the largest mass deportation operation in American history.

In contrast, DeSantis merely says he will deport criminal aliens and visa overstays. That’s hardly the strong stuff Trump promises.

Trump’s message has a terrifying effect on illegals. The mere thought they may be rounded up and shipped back home in the dead of night will make many return home, as it did after he was elected in 2016. A few mass roundups would send the right message. A pledge to deport criminal aliens buried in a policy paper does not have the same effect.

DeSantis and his supporters say that he, unlike Trump, can back up his promises with action, a central element in his campaign pitch.

But while DeSantis has done a lot of good things in Florida, he has not delivered on one of his main immigration pledges. He vowed to bus thousands of migrants out of his state. So far, he’s only flown two flights of illegals—dwelling in other states—to Leftist areas of the U.S. And the illegals flown to Martha’s Vineyard were promptly put on a “pathway to citizenship,” somewhat negating any positive effect that could have arisen from his stunt.

Furthermore, the DeSantis administration in Florida has promised that it would not transport any Cuban illegals from the state, despite this group composing the majority of recently arrived illegals.

To summarize: DeSantis hasn’t bused a single alien out of the state and vows not to send out a single Cuban.

But don’t get me wrong: it’s a terrific sign that the two leading Republicans want strong policies to curb illegal immigration. Which plan is superior is in the eye of the beholder? Trump supporters could say the mass deportation and Birthright Citizenship Executive Order make his the better plan. DeSantis supporters could say the governor’s track record of getting things done makes his plan superior.

The only thing that would establish either one as the real immigration patriot is a call to reduce legal immigration. Neither candidate has yet done so. Until one does, both will have supporters among immigration patriots.

Nevertheless, Trump and DeSantis have made the border invasion the defining issue of the primary. The two popular figures know the base cares about that much more than it cares about “fiscal conservatism” or “fighting socialism.”

The Bush Blight is far from dead in the GOP, but it’s sure lying low.

Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.

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