In 2005, the leftist Center for American Progress released a study [PDF] that estimated the cost of deporting 10 million illegal aliens at $206-$230 billion. Tom Tancredo, by far the strongest and most outspoken immigration patriot in Congress at the time—and now sorely missed—responded that the study was an "an interesting intellectual exercise,” but "useless . . . because no one's talking about" mass deportation. Tancredo advocated what the Center for Immigration Studies calls “attrition through enforcement,” which aims to encourage illegal aliens to leave by using E-Verify in the workplace, removing other magnets like welfare and deporting criminal illegal aliens [$41 Billion Cost Projected To Remove Illegal Entrants By Darryl Fears, Washington Post, July 26, 2005]
In 2008, when Tancredo ran for president, he was by his own description a long-shot candidate who was trying to bring an important issue to the forefront. In 2012, Mitt Romney used (once) the phrase “Self-Deport” to illustrate how E-Verify would encourage illegals to leave. Romney subsequently took a generally weak tone on immigration during the general election, but the Establishment consensus, liberal and “conservative,” was that this comment alienated the much-hyped alleged Hispanic swing vote.
Now Donald Trump, still the GOP frontrunner despite the Main Stream Media’s best efforts, is running to the right of Tancredo on mass deportations—and far to the right of Romney.
Trump has made deporting illegal aliens a key priority from the beginning of his campaign. However, during the last debate, he went a step further by invoking Operation Wetback. He noted that President Eisenhower
…moved a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border: They came back. Moved them again, beyond the border: They came back. Then moved them way south. They never came back.
['I Like Ike': Donald Trump Channels Dwight Eisenhower, Touts His Deportation Plan, By Matthew Boyle, Breitbart, November 10, 2015]
The next day on Morning Joe, Trump said “You are going to have a deportation force, and you are going to do it humanely.” [Donald TrumpWants to Use a “Deportation Force” to Remove 11 Million Immigrants From the U.S., by Lauren Fox, National Journal, November 11, 2015].
Echoing Helen Lovejoy, John Kasich attacked Trump’s plan: “Think about the families. Think about the children.” He continued: “It's a silly argument. It's not an adult argument. We all know you can't pick them up and ship them back across the border." Echoing Kasich (or perhaps Kasich was anticipating him), President Obama said:
Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children, and putting them in what, detention centers, and then systematically sending them out. Nobody thinks that that is realistic. But more importantly, that’s not who we are as Americans.
[Obama mocks Donald Trump's immigrant background, by Nikki Schwab, Daily Mail, November 12, 2015]
President Obama apparently thinks that Republican voters are “nobody”—50% of Republicans prefer Trump’s immigration policy, five times more than the next-highest option. Indeed, Bush, Kasich, and Rubio, the three biggest Amnesty supporters receive a combined total of 15% of Republican support. And even that number is higher than the actual GOP support for Amnesty, as Rubio—who receives 10%—systematically lies about his support for Amnesty, with the MSM’s connivance. [The Trump Way on Immigration Suits Republicans, Poll Shows, by Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call, November 11, 2015] In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, Trump broke 40% among likely GOP voters.
America owes Donald Trump a great debt of gratitude for shifting the Overton Window so far. He single-handedly took the deportation issue, from which even Tom Tancredo had distanced himself, and made it the mainstream position of GOP voters.
Yet I would not go so far as stating that Trump is braver or stronger on the issue than Tancredo. Rather, they approach patriotic immigration reform from a different background
Although Tancredo might not strike anyone as a policy wonk, he did run a think tank prior to running for Congress. And he actively sought the advice of groups like Numbers USA, FAIR, and the Center for Immigration Studies to shape his arguments for immigration.
Trump, in contrast, seems to have developed his positions on his own, or perhaps with a few advisers who are not particularly plugged into the Beltway specifics of the patriotic immigration reform movement. In some ways, this is an asset, as Trump does not get dragged down in some of the political correctness and wonkery from Beltway groups that weakens the message and confuses voters.
Thus the Center for Immigration Studies, which developed the theory of “attrition through enforcement,” has actively sought to dismiss the idea of deportation as a straw man. But as I myself and others at VDARE.com have noted, this approach has its benefits and limitations.
The upside: deportations are not the most efficient way to remove illegal aliens from the country. While opponents overstate the cost, it would be necessary to we must find, detain, give a hearing to, and then transport a significant number of illegal aliens. Encouraging illegal aliens to “self-deport” by simply cutting off the jobs and welfare magnets would save money and time.
But the downside: while CIS and other Beltway groups do not oppose deporting illegal aliens, their insistence that they do not support “mass deportations” has ended up making the concept of deportations even more controversial. And deporting illegal aliens, even those who are otherwise law abiding, sends a strong message that the country will not tolerate lawlessness that policy wonks often underestimate.
Moreover, deportation is the ultimate “attrition” strategy. During Operation Wetback, over one million Mexicans “self-deported” without E-Verify or even laws against illegal employment, because they feared deportation. Yet even in Trump’s new book Crippled America, where he mentions Operation Wetback as a model (though he says it had an “awful name”), he does not mention this key fact.
Trump deserves great credit for not backing down when confronted with the canard that “you can’t deport 12 million people.” But I hope in the future he will note that he does not actually need to physically deport that 12 million. A combination of tough enforcement against employment and strategic deportations will get almost all of the illegal population to self-deport.
With this said, I would like to close on a positive note. One year ago, could anyone imagine a VDARE.com article suggesting that the GOP frontrunner balance his tough immigration rhetoric with some wonkery?
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.