While the media kvelled over President Trump’s “tone” in his address to Congress, the centerpiece as it was in the campaign remains a xenophobic, false narrative about immigrants. No subject took up as much time in so many different variations — illegal immigrants, the wall to keep out immigrants, sanctuary cities that conceal immigrants, drugs brought in by immigrants, crime caused immigrants, a special office to help victims of crimes by immigrants. It is fair to say Trump, his base and both Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller are obsessed with the topic.

This may not be to their benefit politically for several reasons. First, the public at large is not with them. The latest McClatchy-Marist poll shows:

Eight in ten Americans, 80%, favor providing a way for undocumented immigrants to gain legal U.S. citizenship if they meet certain criteria.  And, there is bipartisan support for such action.  Democrats, 87%, and independents, 83%, overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship, and even 69% of Republicans favor such a move if undocumented immigrants learn English, pay fines, and have jobs that pay taxes.  Also of note, 72% of those who supported President Donald Trump in the election support a pathway to legal citizenship.

Even with the loaded (and undefined) term “sanctuary cities” voters do not back Trump’s harsh measures:

Half of Americans, 50%, think sanctuary cities are needed to provide services to undocumented immigrants while 41% say undocumented immigrants should be deported, and therefore, there is no need for sanctuary cities.  10% of Americans are unsure.  On the question of cutting federal funds to cities that provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, 53% of U.S. residents oppose such a measure, 42% support eliminating federal monies, and 5% are unsure.

Moreover, this poll reflects attitudes before heart-tugging stories surface in great numbers. Imagine when there are hundreds of reports like this about those who thought they were protected under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals):

Federal immigration authorities arrested a 22-year-old woman in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday shortly after she spoke to the media about the detention of her family. Law enforcement had initially declined to arrest Daniela Vargas, who was previously granted deportation reprieve under the Obama administration’s deferred action program. . . .
Customs and Border Protection arrested DACA recipient Jesus Alonso Arreola Robles, 22, while he was driving with a 17-year-old boy about a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border last month. Officials said they suspected him of trying to smuggle someone into the U.S. illegally. He also remains in ICE custody.
Other DACA recipients were arrested by ICE but then released. ICE agents picked up Josué Romero, a 19-year-old Dreamer in San Antonio, for alleged possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, a misdemeanor. Romero had a prior order of removal from 2004, according to ICE officials, although he received DACA authorization years later in spite of it. He said later that ICE put him on a van to be deported to Honduras, but then released him.
Edwin Romero, a 26-year-old DACA recipient, spent a night in jail last month because ICE asked police in Richardson, Texas, to detain him after an arrest for outstanding traffic warrants. He was eventually released from the jail before going into ICE custody.

This may prove to be a public relations nightmare.

Third, spending gobs of money on the wall (there is just $20 million there now for it, a pittance) and ICE raids while slashing programs that have wide appeal (e.g., national parks, NIH) will look, to put it mildly, peculiar to plenty of voters. The wall, expected to cost tens of billions of dollars, in all likelihood will never be built.

Finally, if a major incident occurs involving not a dreamer or a red-light runner but a domestic terrorist Trump will get blasted for taking his eye off the ball. After all, the vast majority of immigrants are law-abiding, hard-working people not the blood-thirsty villains Trump makes them out to be.

Trump seems unable to give up his fixation with immigration. Unfortunately for him and Republicans, it may prove to be more of a political burden than a benefit.