OPINION

Ali Noorani: On Trump and immigration, details please

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15:  Members of CASA de Maryland gather in front of the White House to celebrate the Obama Administration's announcement about deportation of illegal immigrants June 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama said the administration will stop deporting undocumented immigrants who had come to the U.S. when they were at a young age.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15: Members of CASA de Maryland gather in front of the White House to celebrate the Obama Administration's announcement about deportation of illegal immigrants June 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama said the administration will stop deporting undocumented immigrants who had come to the U.S. when they were at a young age. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

Fifteen months into Donald Trump’s campaign for president, one could argue that we know less about his stance on immigration than we did on Day One.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said in his June 2015 announcement speech. “… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

America is better than the confusion and chaos Trump is presenting as an immigration policy. Until Trump provides specific, coherent, written policy proposals on immigrants and immigration that replace his insults of the past year-plus, we are all left to speculate and interpret.

- Ali Noorani

For 15 months, Donald Trump has made anti-immigrant rhetoric the centerpiece of his campaign. Then came Tuesday.

“There could certainly be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people,” he said of his hardline immigration proposals during a town hall with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, without providing specifics.

Therein lies the rub. Without details, we have nothing more than talking points from a candidate who may finally realize that America’s changing demographics are something to fear only if you’re a presidential candidate who is alienating most of them.

But Trump has not moved to the position most Republicans support, as reconfirmed by a Pew Research poll released Thursday: that we need responsible immigration reform that provides a way for hardworking immigrants to earn eventual citizenship, side by side with ensuring that our border remains secure.

Rather, where Trump stands on immigration has become a moving target. Key conservatives such as Erick Erickson hope that he is seeing the light, and it would be good news for the GOP if he and others truly are.

But, quite simply, we do not know what Donald Trump’s policy proposals are on immigration.

Sure, everyone agrees with Trump when he says we need to deport violent criminals. Or, as Republican strategist Rob Jesmer told the Huffington Post, “To say you’re for deporting murderers and rapists, well that’s great news ― so is Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, George Bush and Chuck Schumer.”

But when Trump, one day after the great softening, tells Anderson Cooper, “There's no path to legalization unless they leave the country,” the lack of detail is glaring.

At best, Trump is still developing an immigration position. At worst, he is advocating for self-deportation before legalization.

America is better than the confusion and chaos Trump is presenting as an immigration policy.

Until Trump provides specific, coherent, written policy proposals on immigrants and immigration that replace his insults of the past year-plus, we are all left to speculate and interpret.

But here’s what we do know: Conservatives support the creation of a new immigration process that addresses legal immigration, maintains a secure border, allows families to remain united and provides an opportunity for immigrants without documentation to earn citizenship.

No matter the soundbites between now and November, that’s the immigration process we need the next president to encourage. And it’s the one Republicans and Democrats in Congress must come together and pass in 2017.

Ali Noorani is Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum Action Fund.  

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