The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump returns to his old standbys: Xenophobia, hate, lies, and yes, mass deportations

Watch Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's full speech on immigration in Phoenix. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)


With his own confidants telling him he is on track to losing, Donald Trump faces a choice. Should he continue to feed his base his customary brew of nativist and xenophobic nationalism, and count on angry non-college whites to push him over the top in a decisive handful of Rust Belt states?

Or should he try to persuade college educated white swing voters that he isn’t the peddler of bigotry and hate (these voters actually believe he is biased against minorities or says things designed to play on bigotry) that they have watched screaming at them from their TV screens for the last year?

Trump’s immigration speech last night strongly suggests that he either continues to bet on the former, or that he believes that a very light cosmetic makeover of his proposals will be enough to win over sufficient numbers of the latter.

You may have read news accounts that told you that Trump has stopped using the words “deportation force.” That is narrowly true, but it is largely irrelevant to understanding what actually happened last night. Here are two basic facts about the “new” positions on immigration that Trump clarified in his Arizona speech:

Follow Greg Sargent's opinionsFollow

1) Trump has now officially ruled out any meaningful path to legalization for the 11 million. Trump flatly stated that for undocumented immigrants, there is “one route and one route only” to legal status: “to return home and apply for re-entry like everybody else.” Trump did not call for any change in the law that would expedite legal status for those who leave and return, which means in practical terms that this path is foreclosed to many, since it would mean very long wait times that would rupture families and work arrangements. As Julia Preston puts it: “In practice, immigrants who depart could face years of uncertain waiting outside the country.”

In other words, the 11 million have no meaningful path to legalization — which Trump labeled “amnesty” numerous times — and this means they are not just consigned to the shadows indefinitely, but targets for deportation for the foreseeable future.

2) Trump has now confirmed not just that the 11 million are all targets for deportation, but also that deportation efforts will be increased from the status quo. Trump flatly stated that “anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation.” Because Trump stopped using the words “deportation force,” some journalists are claiming he’s “shelving” mass deportations. But to focus on that is to succumb to misdirection. Trump did say he would remove criminals first. But he also said that we will be in a position to consider the “appropriate disposition of those individuals who remain” only after his “beautiful southern border wall” is built, all the criminals are removed, and illegal immigration is ended “for good.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said that "all immigration laws will be enforced" if he became president. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

Even though none of those conditions is ever likely to be met, some are bizarrely treating this as if it holds out the promise of relief or legal status later. But it cannot mean this, because Trump himself flatly ruled out any meaningful path to legal status, and he also said he would rescind Obama’s efforts at executive deportation relief, including for the DREAMers which he repeatedly called “amnesty.” There is no logical way to square those priorities with the potential for genuine assimilation later.

What’s more, as Benjy Sarlin notes, Trump also outlined proposals that add up to a “far more sweeping enforcement regime” than the status quo, and a “major expansion of enforcement in general.” This includes proposals to triple the number of ICE agents, to immediately initiate deportation proceedings for any undocumented immigrant arrested for anything, and to redouble the focus on people who overstay visas. An analysis by Jose DelReal concluded that as many as six million would be targeted for short term deportation under Trump’s regime. As Sarlin rightly puts it, Trump actually recommitted to mass deportations last night, albeit in a somewhat more limited way than his earlier hallucinations about removing all the 11 million with a clap of those strong, manly hands.

Dem strategist Simon Rosenberg argues that Trump also said he’d do more to enlist local law enforcement in deportation efforts. “Trump stopped using the words ‘deportation force,’ then proposed something far more Orwellian and expansive,” Rosenberg says.

Given all of this, Trump’s short term focus on criminals and supposed shift away from mass deportations amount to nothing more than a rhetorical ruse. It’s reporter chum. It’s designed to soften the goal of mass removal, by creating the impression that maybe possibly something can be worked out for those he calls “the good ones” later. But that option is simply not present Trump’s vision, no matter how hard people squint for it. Indeed, all of this taken together puts Trump to the right of Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” stance. Trump would expand deportation efforts, and more generally, he was far more overtly xenophobic about keeping the dark hordes out, and far more lurid and ugly in his broad-brush tarring of illegal immigrants as criminals and invaders, than Romney was.


 * TRUMP’S SPEECH WAS FILLED WITH LIES AND DISTORTIONS: Michelle Lee and Glenn Kessler serve up a terrific fact-based take-down of many of Trump’s major assertions. He inflated the costs to the U.S. of illegal immigration, exaggerated undocumented immigrants’ criminality, told the lie that Clinton’s plan would grant them Social Security, and exaggerated the number of Syrian refugees she would admit.

Oh, and Trump also suggested there could be as many as 30 million undocumented immigrants here, when serious estimates put it around 11 million, give or take one million.

* REPUBLICANS PRIVATELY WARN TRUMP HE’S IN TROUBLE: The New York Times reports that close associates of Trump and his family have bluntly told him that “he is in real danger of losing the race”:

On Monday, Mr. Trump’s son Eric met with senior officials at the Republican National Committee….Without a major shake-up of the electoral map, strategists indicated to the younger Mr. Trump, his father’s already narrow path to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win could vanish. Going through the swing states one by one, party officials showed Eric Trump that his father was drastically under-performing other Republicans in the polls.

Surely Trump’s outpouring of xenophobia, lies and hate last night will turn this around immediately.

* CLINTON LEADS IN PENNSYLVANIA: A new Franklin and Marshall poll finds that Clinton leads Trump among likely voters in Pennsylvania by 47-40. While that’s a tightening from her 11 point lead in this poll early last month, this new finding is in sync with the polling averages, which show her up just over seven points points in the state.

Also: In the new poll, Democrat Katie McGinty leads GOP Senator Pat Toomey by five points, 43-38, perhaps suggesting that Trump’s travails are beginning to be a down-ticket drag.

* CLINTON EXPANDS MAP INTO ARIZONA: in the wake of Trump’s speech in Arizona, the Clinton campaign announced this morning that they will begin airing this ad in the state: It shows children watching a television set as Trump shouts curses, insults, and  and intimations of violence at his rally audiences.

Arizona has long seemed like a ripe state for the Clinton camp to expand into, because of its large Latino population (note that the ad shows him calling Mexican immigrants “rapists”). John McCain, who is prepping for a tough re-election campaign, must be thrilled!

* COULD McCAIN LOSE? Politico looks at that question and concludes that beating McCain is very difficult but not impossible, and turns on whether Dem Ann Kirkpatrick can turn out huge numbers of Latinos or lure moderates alienated by Trump. Note this:

“The biggest vulnerability I hear about John McCain is that he didn’t stand up to Trump when Trump insulted him. People are just saying: ‘If he doesn’t stand up for himself, he won’t stand up for us’,” Kirkpatrick says. “People just say ‘it’s time. It’s time.'”

It has to be galling to McCain that, because he needs Trump voters, he must continue to say he’ll vote for the man even after he questioned the Senator’s prisoner-of-war heroism.

* DEMS HAVE DECENT CHANCE AT SENATE: Sabato’s Crystal Ball updates its ratings, and now moves four GOP-held Senate seats to either “leans Democratic” or “likely Democratic.” They are: Illinois (held by Mark Kirk); New Hampshire (Kelly Ayotte); Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey); and Wisconsin (Ron Johnson).

Conclusion: “Democrats have a good chance to grab at least a tie (broken by the new vice president) and possibly a majority of as many as several seats.” A larger majority is possible because “upsets cannot be ruled out” in Florida, North Carolina, and elsewhere.

* AND TRUMP JOKES ABOUT DEPORTING HILLARY: Another awesome, thrilling line from Trump’s speech:

“Within ICE, I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice just like Hillary Clinton has evaded justice, okay? Maybe they’ll be able to deport her.”

Hey, given that Trump suggested that the “Second Amendment people” might have recourse if Clinton is elected in a crooked election, and given that his convention audiences chanted about “locking her up,” maybe this is an improvement.

What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail

MANCHESTER, NH - NOVEMBER 7: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH on Monday November 07, 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)