Even before the president did a microphone check for his immigration and border security speech in the White House Rose Garden Thursday afternoon, his critics were saying they hated his plan. Good. That means he must be more right than wrong.
Think about it. The people who are telling him he has no idea how to do this are the same Washington crowd that catastrophically failed at least three times to push through major reform legislation. And their number one criticism is … wait for it … that he didn’t listen to them.
On the one side is the apoplectic crowd, distraught that the president didn’t reduce the number of legal immigrants. For starters, they might have praised the parts of the plan that will combat the real problem: illegal immigration. More to the point, the president made the right call – to transform the legal system first to one bringing in workers based on merit.
Today almost 90 percent of legal immigrants are extended family members, visa lottery winners and status adjustments. About 10 percent is based on merit. Let’s change that. Get the baseline right. Stop the mass illegal immigration. Then we can all argue about the right numbers based on numbers and facts and the performance of the economy.
On the other side is the frantic crowd. They’re angry because there’s no room for a mass amnesty or at the very least a continuation of amnesty for DACA recipients and their parents. That demand is what has killed every attempt at major reforms.
In the end, Americans know it makes no sense to argue you are going to fix the problem if you start out by rewarding the people that created the problem. Programs such as DACA, and the loopholes in the refugee program, helped fuel the rush to the border.
Both sides agree that the plan is dead-on-arrival. Well, it may be DOA for them. But they are not who Trump wrote the plan for. His platform is for the majority of Americans who would be happy to see Washington stand up and solve 80 percent of the problem. What the haters are worried about is that Americans will pay attention and that many of them will side with Trump.
What was missed in the commentary on the speech was that this was above all a “pro-immigrant” speech. Trump reminded that he is descendent of immigrants and proudly so. His wife is an immigrant. He wants America to be a successful immigration nation.
The cheapest cheap shot aimed at the plan is that under Trump’s merit system neither his ancestors nor his wife would qualify. On one count this is wrong: His wife certainly would because under a merit-based system she certainly would have met the criteria. His ancestors came over a century ago when America needed exactly what they brought -- the hard-working new Americans who built America.
Now we need an immigration system for the 21st century. We wouldn’t want to use the telephones our grandparents had. We need an immigration system that will keep us competitive, whole and thriving in the modern world.
In his speech today, that’s what Trump said he will try to deliver. We can only hope he shows the determination, discipline and patience to follow through.