Donald,

Thanks for handing in your immigration proposal, though I’m not sure “Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again” is the most elegant title.

You’ve clearly put a lot of effort into this, and staked out a reasonably coherent position. This represents an improvement on your previous work, which pleases me greatly. You have, furthermore, adopted a position that other teachers and I might disagree with, which is a key trait of critical thinking. When your proposal says that you are putting “the needs of working people first — not wealthy globetrotting donors,” that certainly has a ring of truth to it. You have definitely advanced views that represent a distinct segment of American voters.

Unfortunately, as with some of your earlier classroom interventions, you let your rhetoric get ahead of your facts — and your facts are somewhat dicey. In no particular order:

Leaps in logic. Your very first assumption is: “A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.” Do borders really require walls? Why aren’t you proposing a wall on the Canadian border, if that is necessary for nation-building? The conceptual gap between the first and second sentences in your statement is wide enough to drive a big truck full of illegal immigrants through. The whole document is shot through with this kind of leap from A to Z without connecting the dots.

Sloppy presentation, citation and grasp of facts. At one point your proposal states: “Mexico continues to make billions on not only our bad trade deals but also relies heavily on the billions of dollars in remittances sent from illegal immigrants in the United States back to Mexico ($22 billion in 2013 alone).”

Now that reads like a lot of remittances going back to Mexico via illegal immigration. But when you click on the link, you discover that the Fox News report cites the total level of all remittances from Mexicans living abroad, whether from legal or illegal immigrants. So you’re giving the impression that the entire $22 billion comes from illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States. This does not factor in either legal Mexican immigrants in the United States or Mexicans living outside the United States.

This kind of sloppy presentation is everywhere in this paper. Part of the problem is that you relied on Breitbart News an awful lot for your citations (six times by my count), and sometimes those citations don’t provide enough of a basis to support your claims. For example, this Breitbart report alone just doesn’t give you enough grounds to claim, “Decades of disastrous trade deals and immigration policies have destroyed our middle class.” Your overall assertion really isn’t true. Indeed, the best economic research out there suggests that either immigration has little effect on wages — or, in fact, immigration raises wages in the aggregate. Little wonder that one recent literature review concluded that “economists have found that immigrants slightly raise the average wages of all U.S.-born workers … small but positive wage gains of between 0.1 and 0.6 percent for American workers.”

And there are also really important facts that you don’t mention, like the fact that overall levels of Mexican immigration (legal and illegal) have dropped dramatically, to the point where Indian and Chinese immigrants now outnumber Mexicans.

Failure to consider policy externalities. Regarding a wall on the Mexican border, you propose to “Make Mexico pay for the wall” by doing the following:

Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards – of which we issue about 1 million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all NAFTA worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico [Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options].  We will not be taken advantage of anymore.

Given the overall size of the U.S. economy and Mexico’s dependence on access to it, this kind of economic coercion would no doubt have a serious effect on the Mexican economy. But you fail to discuss how the Mexican government, Mexican immigrants living in the United States and the rest of the Latin American region would react to such threats. At a minimum, those reactions would be reciprocal, putting all U.S. firms at an economic disadvantage across Latin America. Whether it would trigger domestic unrest in the United States would be another issue to consider.

But assume that by some miracle it worked — exactly what kind of a wall would the Mexicans build? Wouldn’t their incentive be to build the worst wall ever, or at least a wall with significant flaws? Who would inspect the wall?

Sections like these make it seem that you’re relapsing into those prior classroom outbursts that we’ve talked about during office hours.

You’re trying, Donald, I’ll give you that. Just try harder next time. In your upcoming foreign policy paper, maybe change things up and try to rely on outside counsel.

Grade:  D+