During the 2016 presidential campaign, a political issue neglected by the establishment of both parties came to the fore: immigration.
President Donald Trump’s populist 2016 campaign emphasized America’s need to protect its sovereignty and secure its borders. The message resonated throughout the country in a way that transcended partisanship and stunned America’s ruling class.
Chants of “build the wall” could be heard throughout the Trump’s rallies. But, over two and a half years since his shocking win, there is still no wall, the border crisis has only become worse, and the once-unified Republican government is long gone.
So, has Trump fallen short of his mandate? (RELATED: More Than 70 Percent Of Immigrants Came From Chain Migration)
Immigration hawks don’t think so, or at least they’re publicly standing by the president that put a long-ignored issue at the center of public debate.
“The emergency at the border is only going to get worse,” Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) director Mark Krikorian told The Daily Caller, but also added that it’s not fair to blame Trump for the current crisis.
“What the president has supported has been very encouraging,” Numbers USA research director Eric Ruark told The Daily Caller. “We want to see reductions and the president has supported reductions.”
Ruark specifically pointed to the RAISE Act as a “very good piece of legislation” that the president has supported. The RAISE Act is currently being sponsored by three Republican senators and would reduce the number of legal immigrants imported to the U.S. each year in half, along with ending the long-embattled diversity visa lottery program, while capping the amount of refugees allowed into the U.S. at 50,000 annually.
The president has also thrown his weight behind a proposal crafted by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, which would emphasize border security and making America’s legal immigration system more merit-based. However, the proposal’s outline keeps the current level of legal immigration the same at roughly 1.1 million a year, something that irks restrictionists. (RELATED: Trump Tells Mexico To Get Control Of Its Own Country)
“This bill is intended as a road map for Republicans,” Krikorian said. “It’s disturbing that it doesn’t have even modest immigration reductions.”
Ruark added that Numbers USA would take a wait-and-see approach on Kushner’s plan, but said he was disappointed that it didn’t reduce immigration as a whole.
“It depends really on the definition of skills-based,” he said about the proposal.
Despite this one big flaw, there’s no doubt that there’s plenty for immigration hawks to like about this bill.
“There’s a lot of good stuff in this,” Krikorian admits.
“The president’s latest immigration plan makes significant changes that help restore the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to secure our borders and ensure U.S. immigration policy is in the national interest,” Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) spokesman Matthew Tragesser told The Daily Caller.
“The merit-based aspect of the plan modernizes the overall approach to legal immigration and ensures that those selected to immigrate here have the skills and talents they will need to succeed in America,” he added. “The plan does not reduce immigration as a whole, but it also does not include any form of amnesty, which is compelling.”
At this point, it’s unlikely that any legislation will be able pass Congress ahead of next November’s elections, with Democrats firmly against Trump’s immigration proposals even as the border crisis worsens. Border hawks are still smarting over the missed opportunity that occurred when Republicans were not able to make significant progress on any of their stated immigration priorities, and the focus of most of that outrage falls on one person: Former House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Paul Ryan was never on board with Trump’s agenda,” Krikorian said.
“The roadblock was that the Speaker of the House was Paul Ryan,” Ruark added.
There’s also the matter of liberal judges, who have been a consistent thorn in Trump’s sides, and have suspended the president’s ability to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was enacted by former President Barack Obama through executive fiat.
“Congress, along with activist judicial courts, have stymied [Trump] in almost every way imaginable,” Tragesser said.
The newly-minted conservative Supreme Court isn’t stepping up to reign in Obama-era judicial activists either. The high court is still refusing to act on DACA, and rejected a request from the Trump administration to speed up their ruling earlier this week. (RELATED: Trump Administration Will Ask Supreme Court To End Nationwide Injunctions, Pence Says)
With activist courts and a feeble Congress staunchly opposed to proposed border security measures, the future of conservative immigration priorities could very well rest on the outcome of the 2020 elections. A more experienced President Trump and an even more urgent crisis at the border could help the President’s re-election chances.
“There’s a real potential that Democrats are going to get their clock cleaned over this border disaster,” Krikorian said.
While Trump’s presidency hasn’t been all that immigration hawks had hoped for, most admit that his ascension to the White House has been a net benefit for the causes they champion.
“President Trump understands the nation’s immigration priorities and has worked tirelessly to address them,” Tragesser said
“It’s too early to tell,” Krikorian said. “But, my initial assessment is that it has been a net plus.”