NDN Blog

Three Questions Donald Trump and Every Republican Should Have to Answer

Debate season starts tonight, and many are writing about the questions they would like to see answered by the candidates. Here are the three I hope to see Donald Trump asked tonight, and put to other Republicans and their surrogates in the days ahead:

1. The Economy. You say things are worse today because of President Obama. Yet the employment rate and annual deficits are way down, the stock market is at record highs, the number of American without health insurance is at the lowest level ever recorded, and even median income is higher today than when Obama took office. Are Americans really worse off today?

2. Safety. You say Americans are less safe today. But compared to President Bush’s Presidency, only hundreds have been killed by terrorists not thousands; only thousands of Americans have been killed and wounded in war compared to tens of thousands; crime rates and the number of police killed in action are far below what we saw in the Bush years; and the net number of unauthorized immigrants coming into the country annually has plummeted from 400,000 a year to zero. What statistics can back up your claim that America isn’t safer today than during the Bush years?

3. Syria. Candidate Trump has blamed President Obama and Secretary for the Syrian civil war. Can you tell us how the war started, and what your plan is to end it? Feel free to discuss the role of Russia and Iran, and the regional sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shi’a, in your response.

So, yes, inferring from these questions I believe America is both better off and safer today.  I am also anxious to hear GOPers continue to blame America for a war started and waged by Assad and his Russian allies, and for how they plan on bringing it to an end.  No more secret plans please. 

Column: Thoughts on the New Democratic Coalition (esp Hispanics/Millennials)

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Using our regular polling aggregator, Clinton leads this week 46/42. The race is clearly tightening, both across the country and in the 13 battleground states. This of course was to be suspected. Trump had been struggling for months to consolidate the Republican electorate, and is slowly, slowly doing so now. One should expect him to continue to do so until he is regularly polling at 45%. The question begs – can Clinton answer, regain some of the standing she’s lost in recent weeks, and put the race away?

To do so Clinton is now functionally running against three candidates – Trump, Johnson and Stein. Simply, if Clinton performs well at the debates, spends her time, particularly in the 1st debate, making her case, laying out her plans, conveying her optimism and can do spirit, she should be able to pull voters who’ve wandered over to Johnson and Stein. But the campaign would be wise now to start kicking around ways to create more excitement about this race for Democratic voters – inspirational videos, more Michelle Obama and Cory Booker, things that provide a lift and resist the deeply negative environment that I worry is indirectly suppressing our voters. We need more “for” to complement the very well articulated with hundreds of millions of dollars of the “against.” And count me in on the idea of having aging politicians lecturing voters why the vote for a Clinton alternative is “youthful” or a “waste” is itself a waste of time. Time now to focus on making our case. And as I wrote last week, we have a compelling case to make indeed.

On the new Democratic Coalition and turnout – In the last week we’ve seen a stream of stories about how Democratic voters are less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans, and emerging weaknesses with two of the pillars of the muscular new Democratic coalition, Hispanics and Millennials. Whether this is true or not is a bit hard to tell, but that is in some ways the point. Given how important this new electorate is to 2016 and the future of the Democratic Party, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what is going on with these voters at this point in the election cycle.

A decade ago NDN was among a handful of organizations and researchers who pointed out that American politics was in the process of going through a huge demographic transformation, one driven by the explosion of two emergent groups, Hispanics and Millennials. Perhaps more than any other organization in American politics NDN focused on these two groups in particular, capped by the major magazine piece Pete Leyden and I penned for Mother Jones in 2007 (yes prior to Obama winning in 2008). In our piece, and in the hundreds of presentations we’ve done on the subject, we argued that these demographic changes represented a big “opportunity” for Democrats if their politics could adapt to the sensibilities and the far different media consumption habits of these new potential voters. We do not and have never believed demography was destiny. It was an opportunity to be seized, and never guaranteed (Bush showed us this in 2000 and 2004).

In the last few elections we’ve seen the opportunity this emerging electorate offers, and the perils for Democrats in not getting it right. In part by surfing this demographic wave, Barack Obama received 53 and 51 percent of the vote in his two elections, the best showing for Democrats in back to back elections since 1940 and 1944. But at the same time, during this same period of historic success, we had two disastrous midterm elections. In a series of essays (here and here) and a major poll we did in the spring of 2010, NDN warned that these new voters were far less committed to voting in mid-terms and that left unaddressed we could see a very bad election ahead. My own view since 2010 has been simple: as Tip O’Neill said, we cannot expect someone’s vote unless we ask for it, and we just weren’t asking for the votes of this new electorate with the money and strategic intent we were with the rest of the electorate. This was a bit of an “old dogs new tricks problem,” and as Harry Reid says in today’s Washington Post, it is also expensive (and I would add hard, complicated and requiring the reinvention of the traditional 20th century campaign model).

So heading into 2016 it was conventional wisdom that a great deal of the Democratic Party’s success would ride on the ability to get this new Democratic Coalition (it is not Obama’s coalition, and I will leave that for another day) to be actively engaged in the election. This was particularly important, for given the growth of both Hispanics and Millennials, the electorate this year was projected to be about 2 percentage points more favorable to the Democratic nominee. Getting this part right, holding all other things equal, would make success far more likely.

Which was why I became loudly opposed to the Democratic debate schedule when it was first announced last summer. It was in many ways it was the exact opposite of what was required by the Party to address this strategic opportunity/challenge. Nothing was built in to appeal to Millennials, the Hispanic/Spanish part was TBD, and the choice of old school broadcast networks on the weekends was seemingly designed to create as few impressions with all voters as possible. Given the success of the Party and its 26 debates and highly competitive primary in 2008, it was hard to justify a big change in the debate strategy; it was impossible to justify the schedule the DNC committed to last summer. Look at the results: the GOP’s debates were seen by over 100m more people than the Democrats, an impression gap worth literally hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. And we did nothing to address this core strategic challenge that we need to design and learn new ways to reach new audiences that are far more open to hearing from us than them.

The burden of re-inventing the 20th century broadcast model of American politics falls far more heavily on the Democrats, as our coalition is younger and has far more rapidly left the reach of a traditional 30 second spot. The DNC should have used these debates to have experimented with the model, bringing in new partners and models, showcased younger more diverse leaders, etc. Lots of things could have been tried, but instead we relied on media partners from the predigital age (incl PBS!!!!!!!!!!!) of media and few people watched. No Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Snapchat, Twitch, Vice. Our clear message to this emerging electorate who remain episodic voters – our party is not speaking to you. It was one of the greatest mistakes by a major American political party in my lifetime.

Given the fear Democrats should have had about this new coalition not adequately showing up in 2016 literally everything the Party should have done these past two years should have been designed to engage these new audiences in new ways. And that’s why reading these articles – Spanish language ads starting 10 days ago (In May in 2012, March in 2004), the Millennial effort beginning today, no clear evidence of major Hispanic strategy at the DSCC – you just have to sit back and say WTF guys. Given both the promise and very real challenges of engaging the new electorate the only justifiable strategy would have been to spend more money and to have created more impressions (asking for their vote) than ever before.There is no strategic logic for less, particularly when there are as many as 20 million more Millennials and 4m more Hispanics in the electorate than in 2012.

In my mind, the Democratic Party had one truly significant strategic challenge this cycle – to have ensured that we had a tested, true and funded national strategy to ensure this emerging electorate did not underperform again. Sitting where I sit today, it is clear that we are not there yet. Democrats are still likely to win this year but man is it long past time for there to be a big national conversation about how are going to finally once and for all become the party of the digital age and this new electorate that offers us so much promise and opportunity. 

P.S. Simon wrote about these matters extensively in his 2014 post-election memo, "A Wake Up Call For Democrats".

Release: Rosenberg Statement on Trump Immigration Letter - "It Resolves Nothing"

Simon Rosenberg's statement on Melania Trump's immigration letter:

“Without producing the actual visas or green card application this letter resolves nothing. If they have all the documents, then release them. It is the only way we can answer the fundamental question here which is whether Melania Trump followed immigration law. Failure to release them suggests that they are indeed hiding something, or the narrative they spelled out today is false. It also would have been far easier and quicker to release the actual documents then to have created an outside review. This letter is another case of “believe me” - which is clearly insufficient given that we are talking about possible criminal behavior by the potential First Lady of the United States.

There are additional problems with the letter:

Extraordinary Ability - The claim to have gotten an “extraordinary ability” green card seems improbable given this particular green card's requirements. They are intended for Nobel Laureates or others whose achievements are widely recognized as extraordinary in their field, not middling models. And the most important question remains unanswered by the letter– if she claimed to have a double degree from a university in her green card application she committed fraud, a crime against the United States Government which would put her entire green card/citizenship path becomes in doubt.

It should be noted that the lawyer who produced the letter today is also the one who said on the record in a recorded interview she received her green card through marriage. So one assumes he has recanted his previous public statement about her immigration path into the US.

Questions about the H1B - The reporting by Julia Ioffe and others that she had no regular employer and infrequent work in the late 1990s is again inconsistent with her having been granted a series of H1B visas, or suggests that there were misrepresentations and/or fraud in her applications. It is also not traditionally necessary to return to the home country to renew an H1B, once again calling into question her own recollection of how she lived and worked in the US in the late 1990s.

Finally, the claim that she was never in the US until Aug 1996 has obviously been contradicted by several different eyewitnesses and news accounts.

So, where are we? The letter was well executed and smart. But it resolves nothing. The only way to clear up the question of whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by releasing her work visas, green card application and green card. Her refusal to do this implies guilt, and this whole episode should be treated as seriously as the Donald Trump’s coming appearance with Dr. Oz."

Additional Resources: Be sure to review Simon's tweets on the topic: here, here, and here as well as his piece, "4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path Which Still Need Answers".

Column: Clinton Expands The Map, Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – With fewer than 60 days to Election Day, according to our polling aggregate Clinton continues to hold a substantial 5 point lead in the race, 46-41. A few things to also note: 1) While Clinton retains this 5 point lead, a majority of public polls now have the race within 2 points. 2) Trump is still struggling to get out of the low 40s, and is only above 42% in a handful of either national or battleground state polls. 3) Clinton has successfully expanded the battleground to three new states – AZ, GA and NC. New polls from NBC this weekend should both AZ and GA to be a dead heat, and she leads in most North Carolina polls.

This last point is significant. A larger battleground allows the Clinton financial and organizational advantage to become magnified, as her resources – including powerful surrogates – are being deployed in more than just 10 states (the core battleground - CO, FL, IA, NV, PA, MI, NH, OH, WI, VA). This not only puts much more pressure on the under-resourced Trump operation, but it will mean more wins for Democrats down ballot in these additional states. For the Republican Party who has struggled so much at the national level in recent elections this expansion of the map is a very ominous development.

The move of Arizona into a pure toss up (two good polls out this week have the race dead even, Romney won by 9 pts in 2012) is one that should be particularly worrisome for the national GOP. For it means that soon Texas will start to be in play for Democrats, and not just statewide – Hispanics make up more than 15% of eligible voters in fully 15 Congressional seats held by Republicans in Texas, and 5 of those have more than 25% share. Dedicated, funded campaigns designed to get Hispanic turnout up in those districts could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the House in coming years. The last two public polls of Texas have Clinton up 1, and Trump up 6. Even assuming a 6 point spread, this is way way too close for the GOP to feel good about.

For those wondering about the state of play in the House, this Politico piece is well worth reading.

Trump and Putin – While Trump’s apparent admiration for Vladimir Putin has gotten a lot of attention of late, it is his embrace of Putin’s worldview that should be most alarming to Americans and to his fellow Republicans. Trump and his top supporters, including Governor Pence, have repeatedly praised Putin’s “strength,” admiring of his ability to prosecute his agenda on the world stage particularly in the Middlle East. But let’s look at that agenda a bit, and question whether it deserves praise and admiration.

In the Middle East, Putin is funding and protecting Syria's Assad, and is thus directly complicit in mass slaughter of civilians, the lengthening of the Civil War, and the massive refugee crisis in Europe that is doing so much to weaken establishment parties in Europe right now.  Putin has also for years been Iran’s primary backer on the global stage, including at the UN. The ISIS insurgency is primarily a fight against the Iran/Shi’a aligned regimes in both Syrian and Iraq, and thus one could argue that it has been Russia more than any other global power who has been responsible for creating the conditions that have led to both the rise of Iran as a regional power and ISIS itself - something Trump blames Hillary Clinton for daily.  

The distance between Putin's approach to the Middle East and the very public demonization of Iran we've heard from the GOP over the past few years could not be greater. 

His “strength” has also led Putin to invade and occupy portions of a foreign neighbor, and like Trump, support Brexit, weakening of both Europe and NATO (see this piece for a longer discussion of this).  His “strength” has also put him right in the middle of both the greatest sport cheating scandal in history, the FIFA scandal, and now the greatest Olympic cheating scandal in history. The level of cheating and corruption practiced by Russia on the global sports stage has no historic parallel, and is another sign of Putin’s utter contempt for a rules-based, international system.

Third, Putin is a leader of what has become the most pernicious political economy of the 21st century – the petro state. There is perhaps no system more antithetical to the American creed than petro states – unaccountable dictatorships, systems whose wealth and power is derived from mass pollution of the planet and the threat of global instability (which keeps oil prices high) rather than a commitment to the current global system.

Which brings me to my final point – that Trump, like Putin, has denigrated institutions and conventions which keep our democracy strong. He has broken from time honored bi-partisan tradition and refused to release his tax returns and his medical records, and has even failed to produce Melania’s basic immigration documents that he promised weeks ago.. He has refused to allow press to travel on his plane, and ended the traditiona of the “protective pool” that would travel with him at all times of day. He already said the election will be rigged and thus illegitimate, has encouraged the hacking of a major political party in the US by a foreign power to help disrupt our election and constantly calls the media and political elites dishonest and corrupt. He has questioned the efficacy of NATO and the European project, praised Brexit, and has said he will rip up trade agreements we have with other nations, violating international law and weakening the global trading system that has done so much to advance democratic capitalism around the world.

It would be one thing to praise Putin’s charm, but to praise his leadership and “strength” is praising a man who gets up every day fighting against time worn American values and the modern world we helped build. This is the very opposite of patriotism, and to me is the single most troubling manifestation of the new politics of Trump.

On 2016: We Are Better Off Today

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Sticking with the poll average we’ve used all election, Clinton heads into the home stretch up 48.1/42.5 over Trump. The Real Clear Politics “No Toss Ups” Electoral College map has it 340/198 for Clinton. While the race has tightened a bit, and the CNN poll shows Trump up today, I will stick with the data in front of us – Clinton holds a firm lead on Labor Day. It was always inevitable that Trump would claw his way back to the mid 40s from the historically low place he has been in recent months. Part of what we are seeing is the slow, painful “coming home” of Rs who are holding their noses and deciding to vote for Trump. My expectation is that heading into the 1st debate on September 26th Clinton will hold a 3-4 point lead.

The Real Clear Senate “No Toss Ups” has it 50/50, which would give control to the Democrats if Clinton wins. Any way you look at this election right now, we should expect it to be competitive across the board. The ace in the hole for Democrats is their huge financial and organization advantage, which could make a significant difference in close states either for President or Senate. More on the House next week.

We Are Better Off Today – One of the most significant sets of data in the 2016 revolves around the perception of the performance of President Obama. As I’ve said for years now, if folks don’t believe that Democrats did a good job these last eight years there won’t be any reason for them to vote for them in 2016. We know that President Obama’s various approval ratings hover in the high 40s, low 50s, and in some polls are the highest they’ve been in his second term. We know that the employment rate is below 5%; median incomes have been rising in the US since 2011; there is direct evidence now that wages have alos been rising since 2013; the stock market is at historic highs; the annual deficit is less than half of what it was when Obama took office; 20m have health insurance today who didn’t have it and the growth health care costs are slowing: despite dystopian rhetoric from Donald Trump, crime rates in the US have plummeted over the past generation and investment in our cities has soared; energy costs are lower today, domestic production is up and we’ve begun to make the transition to a cleaner energy future in earnest.

To me it is clear and evident that things are better today than when Obama took office.

Helping fill in this picture a bit comes a brand new study from Gallup. We include the key graphs from the study but this shows is that simply isn’t a high level of discontent in the country right now. 80% of Americans say they are satisfied with their current standard of living, and 50% say things are getting better for them. Take a look:
 

 

Democrats need to do a better job owning the success of their past two Presidents. Both have left the country far better than they found it. The same cannot be said of the last two Republican Presidents. If Democrats were to move one single message as a party in the final two months of the election it would be this – when they are in power, things better. When the Rs are in power, things get worse. This is both true, and germane to the debate we are having in America right now.

We end with a chart that Jared Bernstein used in a recent Washington Post piece,  It shows that median income has been rising since 2011. 

Trump's New Immigration Line Is Consistent - Not Inconsistent - With His Arizona Speech

Yesterday, I released a detailed analysis of why what Donald Trump outlined in his Arizona immigration speech was mass deportation. Again, in the last 24 hours, he and his surrogates have attempted to muddy the waters. Here is a quick explanation for why what Trump said last night on Fox was consistent – not inconsistent – with the plan he spelled out on Wednesday.

The bottom line: Trump has eliminated legalization as an option for anyone who has ever entered the country illegally; said all 11m must leave the country with no exception; creates a massive unprecedented, ubiquitous, 24/7 deportation force; and even after all this if there is any undocumented immigrant left in the US he has said there is no chance for legalization or visa of any kind. So what exactly is there to “sit back and assess?” He has already forestalled anyone who has come in illegally doing anything other than leaving the country. Let’s review the key passages from his speech:

11m Must Leave, No Chance of Legalization Ever – “For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home.... Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status, or become a citizen of the United States, by illegally entering our country.”
The offer from Trump is for families to quit their jobs, sell their homes/break their leases, remove their kids from school and return home to a country they no longer know w/o any guarantee of return. For most undocumented immigrations the wait to come back into the US will be at least 20 years. This is in effect forced removal.

All 11m Can Be Deported At Any Time – “But unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement....Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation."

Establishment of Unprecedented, 24/7 Deportation Force – “There are at least 2 million criminal aliens now inside the country. We will begin moving them out day one, in joint operations with local, state and federal law enforcement. Beyond the 2 million, there are a vast number of additional criminal illegal immigrants who have fled or evaded justice. But their days on the run will soon be over. They go out, and they go out fast.

Moving forward, we will issue detainers for all illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime whatsoever, and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings. We will terminate the Obama Administration’s deadly non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.
We will restore the highly successful Secure Communities program. We will expand and revitalize the popular 287(g) partnerships, which will help to identify hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens in local jails. ….The Davis-Oliver bill will enhance cooperation with state and local authorities to ensure that criminal immigrants and terrorists are swiftly identified and removed.

We are going to triple the number of ICE deportation officers. Within ICE, I am going to create a new special Deportation Task Force…..We’re also going to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents.”
Taken together this is a massive new, unprecedented national deportation force unlike anything seen in all of American history.

Conclusion – Trump’s plan is to create an unprecedented national, 24/7, deportation force by formally deputizing all federal, state and local law enforcement and adding significant new DHS capabilities in the immediate round up of several million people. At the same time, any undocumented immigrant will become once again a deportation priority. This means that while the new deportation force is rounding up the millions of “criminal aliens” any other undocumented immigrant may get caught up in the enforcement web and immediately deported. Finally, you will have been told by your government that you in fact must leave and there is no chance of you ever achieving legalization or a visa if you stay.

The strategy is that all of this taken together – the massive national raids; ubiquitous 24/7 deportation force; a universal removal order for all 11m, no chance of legalization or visa - will cause the rest of the undocumented population to “self-deport.” The expectation that there will be very few left after years of this effort (why Trump’s language last night on it taking a while was significant – a longer process will catch more non-criminals and is more threatening to those without criminal records); and that he has already said there is NO CHANCE anyone of them will get a visa or legalization.

So, again, how exactly he is being reasonable here? Suggesting a change in policy? What exactly will he have to “sit back and assess?”

 

Trump’s Mass Deportation Strategy Explained

While there has been a great deal of confusion around Trump’s immigration wiggle and concepts like "mass deportation" in the past few weeks, his strategy towards the 11m and others here without authorization is very clear: they all have to go, and he will ensure they do through an unprecedented expansion of the state’s power to round people up and deport them.

After Obama’s victory in 2008, the restrictionist movement pragmatically realized that its goal of outright forced removal of 11m (core to the 2005 House GOP "Sensenbrenner Bill") was no longer on the table.  They moved on to “attrition through enforcement” that would count on making the threat of deportation so ubiquitous and terrifying that undocumented immigrants would "self-deport."  This strategy was manifested in Arizona’s famous HB 1070 bill, other copy cats in states like GA and PA, and of course Mitt Romney’s own commitment to "self-deportation" in 2012.

It also explains the extraordinary demonization of President Obama for his 2011 Morton reforms that prioritized undocumented immigrants with criminal records for deportation.  By prioritizing criminals for deportation, DHS was also acknowledging that the other 10m or so undocumented immigrants without criminal records were no longer a target of our deportation machinery.  Without this imminent threat, there is no "self-deportation."  While obviously a smart use of limited resources, the 2011 Morton reforms also dealt an ideological death blow to the restrictionist movement.

These reforms were violently opposed by restrictionist leaders like Rep. Steve King.  In 2013, the House GOP passed the “King Amendment” which called from the rollback of the Morton reforms by name.  When the bi-partisan Senate bill came to the House in the fall of 2013, the central reason Republicans refused to take it up was the claim that these new sensible enforcement priorities were "lawless," and that the President couldn’t be trusted.  To be clear – the prioritization of criminals for deportation was the central reason the House used to walk away from the immigration reform debate in 2014.  In fact, the only immigration bill passed by the House in 2014 in response to the Senate bill was another version of the King Amendment, putting Paul Ryan and his colleagues on record for blocking legalization and the re-establishment of the ubiquitous 24/7 threat of deportation.

In Trump’s published immigration plan and in his remarks last night the Republican nominee goes even further – he calls for the deputization of all other federal, state and local law enforcement in the round ‘em up efforts. This would create a super sized, truly ubiquitous, 24/7 deportation force, far greater than what DHS offers today. The reporting by some that he has backed off mass deportation is just plain wrong. He made clear in Arizona last night that all 11m undocumented immigrants in the country would have to leave and return to their country of origin with no guarantee of return. This would require them to quit their jobs, sell their homes/break their leases, rip up families and return to a country they no longer know. For those from countries like Mexico with huge backlogs, the application process to re-enter could easily take 20-30 years. This is anything but humane, soft or even pragmatic.

The big innovation in the Trump plan is that he now uses the threat of "criminal aliens" – the same ones the restrictionists have fought from prioritization in recent years – as the impetus to construct his massive deportation force.  Once constructed it would of course catch non criminals in its net but most importantly it would establish the Orwellian immediate, imminent threat of deportation required to scare the rest of the 11m into "self-deporting."  The reason Trump and his team suggests they are open to figuring out what to do with those who remain (with no hope of legalization or special visa) is that they do not expect there to be any one who remains with him and his policies in place.

Finally, those commenting and reporting on Trump and immigration should stop taking the daily bait he is tossing out. He has made his choice.  The most hard core of the restrictionists – Sen. Sessions and Joe Arpaio – were on stage with him last night in Arizona.  Sessions even accompanied him to Mexico, something the Mexican government never should have allowed.  The speech he gave last night, and his already published immigration plan, are the most enthusiastic embrace of restrictionist politics by a major party leader in the last two generations of American politics.  There is no pivot, no wiggle, no softening – just the nasty, over the top embrace of some of the darkest impulses in American political life today. 

Believe me.

Further Reading

Greg Sargent, Washington Post, "Trump Returns to His Old Standbys: Xenophobia, Hate, Lies, and Yes, Mass Deportations"

Simon Rosenberg, NDN, "On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform"

Key Passages from Trump Immigration Speech

“For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above. Those who have left to seek entry under this new system will not be awarded surplus visas, but will have to enter under the immigration caps or limits that will be established.

We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty. 

Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status, or become a citizen of the United States, by illegally entering our country.....

......In a Trump administration all immigration laws will be enforced, will be enforced. As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities. But unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement. And ICE and Border Patrol officers will be allowed to do their jobs the way their jobs are supposed to be done.

Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country."

 

On Trump, Immigration and Deporting Criminals First

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

In recent days, some Trump supporters have indicated that the reported evolution in Trump’s thinking on immigration will focus on ways to ensure that unauthorized immigrations with criminal records become a more significant priority for deportation. Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, Trump confirmed that he is indeed attempting to land in some new place on immigration, though where exactly still remains to be seen.

For those reporting/commenting on this evolving issue in the days ahead it is important to keep a few things in mind:

Deporting Criminals First Has Been USG Policy Since 2011 – In the aftermath of the GOP’s blocking of immigration reform in 2010, the Administration took significant steps to prioritize its immigration enforcement efforts in two areas – border deterrence and those with criminal records in the US. The vast majority of those deported from the US in the years since have fallen into those two categories. If this indeed is the direction Trump is going in, he will be endorsing existing long standing Obama Administration immigration and border enforcement strategies. You can find out more about these changes in US policy in this long brief I did last summer.

This new and smarter policy direction has been successful – flow of undocumented immigrants into the country have plummeted; the number of undocumented immigrants in the country today is less than when President Obama took office; it allows limited federal, state and local law enforcement to focus on more serious criminals both undocumented and those legally here in the US; and those undocumented immigrants without criminal records have far less to fear from the US government and can keep working and contributing to the economy.

It is important to note that since the implementation of this new strategy in 2011, Hispanics in the US have made very dramatic economic gains.

Given the success of this new policy in recent years, it would be wise for candidate Trump to embrace it. But as Greg Sargent reports this morning, his apparent embrace of this approach is in direct conflict with the television ad he is currently running, and more than a year of statements he has made about “open borders” and our ineffective border and immigration enforcement system.

In his new piece, Sargent also reminds us that last night Trump only seemed to endorse Obama’s immigration enforcement priorities. No mention of what to do with the millions of unauthorized immigrants who remain.

House GOP on Record Opposing Deporting Criminals First – In 2013 and again in 2014, the House GOP, led by restrictionist Rep. Steve King, voted to prevent the Administration from using its power of “prosecutorial discretion” to prioritize the removal serious criminals and recent border crossers over those without criminal records. This means that if Trump heads in the direction already embraced by the Obama Administration, he will be breaking from the restrictionist wing of his own Party, and his allies in the Paul Ryan led House. Politically, this is no small matter.

So, yes, lot's still to be learned about Trump’s ugly damned if I do, damned if I don’t dance on immigration.

One of those felons to be deported first might be Mrs. Trump – Last night it was reported that Trumpworld has threatened to sue Politico for their reporting on Mrs. Trump problematic immigration story. Weeks after this story first broke, this threatened law suit appears to be the first official response by the Trump campaign to the growing body of evidence that Melania Trump violated immigration laws. It is not exactly the response many of us were led to believe would be coming from Trumpworld on this important matter.

To be clear – the reporting by Politico, the Washington Post, Univision, Bloomberg and others suggest that Mrs. Trump committed a series of grave immigration crimes that could easily rise to the level of a felony, and even trigger a process that could strip her of her citizenship. Just yesterday Vanity Fair reported that Mrs. Trump committed perjury in a 2013 court case where she repeated some of these same fabrications about her past.

I review the seriousness of what has been reported about Mrs. Trump in this recent post, and once again call upon Trumpworld to immediately release all of Mrs. Trump’s work visas she acquired prior to 2011 and her green card and green card application. The only way for us to know whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by the release of these and other immigration documents.

4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path Which Still Need Answers

Now that Donald Trump has promised to address the question of whether Melania Trump broke immigration laws when she emigrated to the United States in the mid-90s and in the process of gaining her citizenship (here, here, here and here), there are at least four questions that need to be answered directly by the Trump campaign in the coming days: 

Work Visa(s) - What work visa(s) did Mrs. Trump have in the years before she received her green card in 2001? Can you produce it/them and their applications for the public to see? 

Green Card - Can you explain how Mrs. Trump received her green card in 2001? Was it based on an employer or family sponsor? If employment related, who was the sponsor? Was it through marriage as was reported on August 5th? Did Mrs. Trump get her green card by other means? Can you produce she green card petitions and applications?

Purpose of Early Travel to US -  Can Mrs. Trump provide the date and purpose of each of her visits to the United States prior to moving here in 1996? Did she work, even for free, during any of these visits? We know she was here in 1995, and an associate from those days, Paolo Zampolli, has said on the record that she was living here before receiving a work visa in 1996. As you are aware, the United States government has a record of every trip she made in and out of the US prior to her receiving a green card. So it would help all of us understand her complete emigration story by providing this information as it is already known by immigration authorities in the US.

Lying to Immigration Authorities - Did Mrs.Trump represent that she had a college degree in her applications for work visas and green card? As you know, having a college degree could have been determinant in her receiving a visa or green card. Now that we know she has embellished her biography and only finished a semester or two of college, this seems relevant. Lying on immigration applications is a serious crime in the United States, and the public has a right to know if our future First Lady committed immigration fraud in the process of obtaining her citizenship.

Of course, the easiest way to put all this to bed is for Melania Trump to release her entire immigration file, or for her to authorize the United States government to do so on her behalf. Given that we are talking about serious crimes and immigration violations here - serial fraud, felonies and possible loss of citizenship for Mrs. Trump - the Trump campaign needs to be as transparent as possible in the days ahead. Just releasing any work visa she had in the 1990s and her green card application and card itself would have largely put this story to bed by now. The failure to release these documents already suggests the Trump campaign is struggling to reconcile what actually happened with a public story that has already proven to be fabricated.

Donald Trump has put the maximum punishment for those who violate American immigration laws at the center of his campaign. Given this, there is an urgency for the Trump campaign to resolve the very real issues raised by Melania Trump's statements about her immigration path into the US; and for Mr. Trump to demonstrate to the tens of millions of immigrants he has denigrated that the rule of law applies not just to them but to him and his own family too.    

Additionally, if the Trump campaign doesn't make a serious effort to explain the discrepancies reported by Politico, Bloomberg, the Washington Post and Univision, leading lawmakers should call upon the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to begin a formal investigation into Melania Trump and her problematic arrival story.  Her potential crimes are far more serious than what the typical undocumented immigrant has committed, and warrant the full attention of US law enforcement now. 

Clinton Getting A Bounce, Wages Are Rising

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – As expected, we find early evidence today of a Clinton bounce. CBS has Clinton going from 43/44 to 47/41, CNN from 45/48 to 52/43, Morning Consult from 40/44 to 43/40 and PPP and Ipsos/Reuters each have Clinton with a 5 point lead. The averages are showing gains for Clinton of 2-3 points already, and Obama’s approval rating in Gallup over the past 10 days has gone from 49/48 to 54/42, the best of his entire second term. It is early but Clinton and the Democrats are clearly getting a meaningful bounce.

It is significant that in some of these new polls have Trump hovering in low 40s, signaling that he still having trouble bringing his party together. If he is not in the mid 40s by mid August his campaign will officially be in trouble. Additionally, based on the Real Clear Politics state averages, Clinton should be firmly ahead in every single battleground state including Arizona and North Carolina by week’s end.

But could the economy slow over the next few months, and change the current dynamic that seems to be favoring Clinton? While Friday’s GDP report appeared to signal trouble ahead, as this analysis from the NYTimes’s Neil Irwin explains things are better than many reported on Friday. And for consumers (voters), things were particularly good:

“The wages and salary component of compensation is now up 2.5 percent over the last year; that same reading was only 2 percent in the second quarter. It’s just one number, but it points to this conclusion: Worker pay is not just rising; it’s also starting to rise at a faster pace. And it’s coming in the form of cash compensation, not being eaten up by health insurance and other employer-provided benefits.”  

Given this report, it is far more likely for economic sentiment to be an asset for Clinton in these final 100 days of the election than Trump.

A Very Good Week for Democrats – Last week’s DNCC was my 8th Convention, and I think it was the best I’ve attended. The speeches and talks by private citizens were powerful, the production itself just excellent and the tone upbeat and can-do. It was an extraordinary contrast to the angry mess the Republicans stumbled through a week before.

What we saw last week was a mature, successful governing party, one with a deep set of talented, experienced and well-regarded leaders comfortable on the national stage. It was a reminder of just how successful the Democrats have been at the Presidential level – both the Clinton and Obama Presidencies left America better than they found it, and Democrats have won more votes in 5 of the last 6 Presidential elections. If Hillary Clinton wins this fall, it will be arguably the best stretch for a political party in all of our history.

This confident, mature, successful Democratic Party took a generation to build. When I got into American politics in the last 80s and early 90s, things were reversed – the GOP was ascendant, confident, well led, popular with young people and it was the Democrats who had run out of political and ideological gas. Led by the New Democrats of that time, the Democratic Party began a long period of modernization and reform that has helped produce the governing and political success we’ve had over the past generation.

Critical to that success today is the demographic opening NDN and a handful of other organizations helped identify a decade ago. If they can harness this emergent coalition in this and coming elections, the Democrats have discovered a young, growing and diverse coalition that could sustain them for many elections to come and will eventually also generate majorities in both Congresses. Remarkably, Democrats may be in the middle or even early stages of a very long run (see our 2007 magazine essay laying all this out, The 50 Year Strategy) and not at its end. 

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