By Howard Foster -
If the Trump campaign were focused on the real issues instead of survival, that statement would be front and center in the upcoming debate and might disqualify her for the presidency. No nominee of a major party has declared support for “open borders,” which means no restriction on immigration in our history.
Even during the decades of defacto open borders between the end of the Civil War and 1921, when severe restrictions were imposed for the first time, presidents always qualified their support for immigration by saying newcomers had to assimilate and could not be criminals, dangerous to public safety or likely to become a “public charge.” The Democratic platform does not support open borders. It supports our immigration laws (at least in theory) which limit the number of newcomers overall and by region of origin.
Arguably immigration enforcement was the issue that boosted Trump to the front of the Republican pack. It is his tough stance and his dedication to trade barriers that make him competitive in the election. Absent those two issues, he would not be a serious candidate, at least in my view.
On both of those issues he has departed from conventional political policy on the last few decades. The Clinton statement puts her outside the mainstream at the other end of the spectrum. If this were widely circulated, she would be compelled to renounce her past statement, which surely pleased her South American banker audience. It would be very hard for her to do this.
She might recoil from the phrase “open borders” but advocates of liberal immigration have great difficulty in setting either numerical or geographic limits on who should be able to enter the U.S. Will she say immigrants must have at least a high school education? Must be able to speak English? Must not have a criminal record? Must have job skills? A yes answer to any of these would place her outside the Democratic party position and enrage key constituencies like Hispanics.
Trump may be a very flawed candidate but he has an instinct for the jugular- especially on immigration. His speech on the topic in August was excellent and actually proposed serious reforms that would take us where we need to go to get control of the borders.
It still might be possible to refocus the campaign on this issue, in which the gap between them could hardly be greater and his core constituency needs reassurance.