James Simpson: Trump’s waffling on immigration could cost him in 2020 | TribLIVE.com
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James Simpson: Trump’s waffling on immigration could cost him in 2020

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AP
Migrants seeking asylum in the United States line up for a meal provided by volunteers near the international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico April 30.

President Trump just announced a major immigration reform package that’s certain to disappoint his staunchest supporters.

The plan, which was largely designed by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, would maintain the current, historically high level of legal immigration. That’s a reversal from Trump’s campaign-trail promise to scale back legal migration.

This flip-flop could hurt him in 2020. Polling shows that the majority of Americans and the overwhelming majority of Republicans want to substantially reduce legal immigration.

Immigration is the single most important issue for many of the president’s supporters. In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, GOP voters ranked immigration as the “most important problem” confronting the nation.

The broader electorate shares these concerns. Just look at a recent survey conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, which first informed respondents that “current federal policy adds about one million new immigrants with lifetime work permits” to the U.S. population each year. Pulse then asked respondents what level of immigration they would prefer: “less than 250,000, 500,000, 750,000, one million, one and a half million, or more than two million?” In every one of the 25 states polled — even in blue states like New York, Minnesota, and California — a majority of voters wanted to cut immigration by at least a quarter.

Supporters of the status quo dismiss these surveys and point to other polls that show relatively high voter satisfaction with current immigration levels. For instance, Gallup reports that only 31% of adults want immigration levels reduced, while another 37% want immigration to remain the same.

Such polls are unreliable because they don’t inform respondents how many people currently immigrate to the U.S. each year. Without that context, it’s tough for many voters to make a decision. Most Americans are unaware just how high immigration levels are.

When surveys give people sufficient background information and then ask them to suggest a hard number, Americans overwhelmingly choose to reduce immigration. They would likely call for drastic cuts if they realized that less than 15% of the approximately 1 million legal immigrants coming to the U.S. every year came for employment-related reasons. Most immigrate through “family reunification,” a polite term for chain migration. In 2017, only 12%, 137,855, obtained green cards for employment. Sixty-six percent, 748,746, immigrated through “family reunification.”

The contents of the Kushner-designed immigration overhaul aren’t all bad.The plan would eliminate the visa lottery, which gives green cards to 50,000 foreigners regardless of their skill level. Such lottery winners are often incapable of supporting themselves in the United States. The plan also curbs “chain migration” — it gives fewer green cards to low-skilled immigrants who already have family members in the U.S.

But it falls far short of dealing with the out-of-control situation we face today. There are between 20 million and 30 million illegal aliens now living in the U.S. They receive welfare and obtain jobs in contravention to the law. If denied welfare and denied employment with the use of E-Verify, many would self-deport, as they would no longer have a motive to stay. Finally, merely replacing low-skilled legal immigrants with higher-skilled ones won’t satisfy the president’s base. Trump voters want to reduce overall levels of immigration.

Democrats are playing a dirty, subversive game — seeking to import low-skilled, welfare-dependent populations to build a voter base that will ultimately deliver the “permanent progressive majority” they seek. Among themselves, they acknowledge that “demographics is destiny,” and the United States will go the way of California if this trend is not reversed.

Trump won the White House in large part thanks to his pledge to reduce immigration. Voters won’t turn out in full force in 2020 if the president reneges on that promise, and future prospects for a Trump presidency, the GOP and indeed our entire country, will be in doubt.

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