The sight of Donald Trump rolling out a new, and highly specific, immigration plan has been more than a little unsettling: It shows that Trump is now genuinely playing in the GOP primaries to win, and reveals in stark relief how exactly he intends to go about doing that.

Trump’s plan to combat illegal immigration — unveiled yesterday — may make it harder to avoid reckoning with the real source of Trump’s appeal to his supporters. If his lead among GOP primary voters continues, it will challenge the platitudes about how it is rooted in their desire to see “disruptions” or in their general dissatisfaction with the political establishment.

Trump’s plan, which is detailed on his website, calls for construction of a wall along the Mexican border, vowing to “make Mexico pay” for it; an end to birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants; the defunding of sanctuary cities; the strengthening of immigration enforcement; and more. In an interview on NBC News, Trump added that he would rescind President Obama’s executive actions shielding millions from deportation, and deport all illegal immigrants: “They have to go.”

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One crucial component of his plan is the justification for it. He is absolutely clear in blaming the suffering of American workers on immigration policies:

Decades of disastrous trade deals and immigration policies have destroyed our middle class…The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans – including immigrants themselves and their children – to earn a middle class wage…
We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers in order to: help wages grow, get teenagers back to work, aid minorities’ rise into the middle class, help schools and communities falling behind, and to ensure our immigrant members of the national family become part of the American dream.

According to Simon Rosenberg, the president of NDN and a longtime watcher of Republican positioning on immigration, Trump has given voice to a narrative that most other Republicans avoid sounding quite as openly or loudly.

“No leading candidate for President in the last generation of U.S. politics has been so explicit about blaming Mexico, Mexican immigrants and our recent high rates of immigration for America’s economic troubles as Trump,” Rosenberg tells me. “He is the most significant champion of the restrictionist approach to immigration the country has seen in this era of American politics.”

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Trump has laid down a hard marker. The questions now: Will the story Trump is telling on immigration enhance his appeal to GOP primary voters, as is plainly his goal? (I have argued that GOP primary voters have far more nuanced views, and I hope that holds true).

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What will the other GOP candidates — such as Jeb Bush, who has called for legalization, and argued that illegal immigrants have something positive to contribute to American life — say in response? Will other candidates feel obliged to echo that narrative, thus potentially boxing the eventual nominee into a place that’s arguably to the right of Mitt Romney’s self-deportation stance? Will any of them push back on it?

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* GOP CANDIDATES KEEPIN’ IT VAGUE ON FOREIGN POLICY: The New York Times had a great weekend piece detailing how the GOP candidates are avoiding specifics in discussions of foreign policy. Many of them say they’d do a better job defeating ISIS, though they are leery of sending in ground troops, and many won’t say what they’d replace the Iran deal with after (of course) scrapping it.

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Still, they do seem to agree that U.S. foreign policy needs to be somehow tougher than it is under Obummer, even if they feel little pressure to detail exactly what they mean by that.

* TRUMP KEEPS ON TRUMPING GOP FIELD: A new Fox News poll finds that Donald Trump continues to lead his GOP rivals among national Republicans, with 25 percent. Interestingly, both Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have dropped, and are in single digits.

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Remarkable tidbit: 52 percent of Americans overall say Trump is not qualified to be president, but GOP primary voters say Trump is qualified by a two-to-one margin (67-32).

* SANDERS GAINING ON CLINTON: Also from the new Fox poll:

Clinton drops below 50 percent for the first time, while Sanders keeps climbing. She leads among Democratic primary voters by 19 points (49-30 percent).  Two weeks ago Clinton was up by 29 points (51-22 percent). A month ago she had a 40-point advantage (59-19 percent). 

But Nate Cohn reminds us that Sanders’ support (mostly among white progressive activists) is not diverse enough to win a Dem primary, and Hillary still “holds as strong a position as any primary candidate in history.”

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* INDEPENDENTS SOUR ON GOP FIELD: One last tidbit from the Fox poll: Independents say by 47-36 that the recent GOP debate made them less enthusiastic about the field of GOP presidential candidates. And we’re only just getting started here!

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* JEB GOES UP ON THE AIR: The Associated Press reports that the pro-Jeb Super PAC Right to Rise is set to sink $10 million into ads in the early-presidential states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The spots are mostly biographical, highlighting his tenure as Florida governor.

There is plenty of time — and money — to turn around his poor showing in early polls (which mostly reflect name recognition), given that Jeb’s Super PAC has raised over $100 million.

* ABOUT THE IRAN DEAL’S ’24 DAY’ PROVISION: Glenn Kessler takes apart one of the most frequent criticisms of the Iran deal: The idea that it will take 24 days before inspectors can gain access to possible sites of nuclear activity. As Kessler notes, the deal provides for continuous monitoring of already-designated nuclear sites and supply chains and more; and the 24 day period is the maximum that it might require to get access to suspicious activity at undeclared sites.

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Meanwhile, Kessler explains, many experts say the verification measures “exceed previous negotiated nuclear deals,” and the 24-day provision is intended to put in place consequences (sanctions snap-back) for efforts to cheat.

For the record, these proposals would be really bad public policy — a harsh blow to Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution, who depend on Social Security, often have jobs that involve manual labor, and have not, in fact, seen a big rise in life expectancy. Meanwhile, the decline of private pensions has left working Americans more reliant on Social Security than ever. And no, Social Security does not face a financial crisis; its long-term funding shortfall could easily be closed with modest increases in revenue.

So will Hillary embrace an expansion of Social Security (as Sanders has) to sharpen the contrast on retirement security?

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