Conventional wisdom is wrong again. President Donald Trump doesn’t need a wall to win in 2020. A better strategy is to simply stay consistent with his off-script promotion of legal immigration “in the largest numbers ever.”
Don’t bet on Trump wearing a Make Open Borders Great Again hat anytime soon, but he may be dabbling in more libertarian-leaning immigration politics as Congress finalizes its deal on border security funding.
Another government shutdown seems off the table, but increasingly, so does Trump’s threat of a national emergency declaration, which theoretically would force the funding and building of a border wall. Trump knows a court challenge would last through his re-election campaign, and under the National Emergencies Act of 1975, a simple majority of the House of Representatives could override the executive move.
How, then, does Trump come out winning? It may depend on what he says in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night, his first rally of 2019. Look out for anything that may parallel what he extemporaneously floated in front of a divided Congress at his State of the Union Address.
“Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways,” Trump said. “I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”
The mainstream media gawked at this, and not surprisingly, Democrats haven’t jumped at the opportunity to work with the president to welcome more immigrants. But it’s not exactly coming out of nowhere from this administration.
In June 2018, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stressed to reporters that Trump wanted a “very legal and easy immigration process so that people can come here the right way, not the wrong way.”
Trump talked about simplifying the process on the 2016 campaign trail as well, though, in fairness, his more popular lines were regarding the wall and temporary bans. Still, his wall was always going to have doors. He told CNN’s Erin Burnett in 2016 that he hoped to “get a lot of people coming in.”
As Congress closed in on a deal Thursday, Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the Washington Examiner that Trump was “very reasonable” with him on what he would sign regarding funding for border security.
If that is the case, expect Trump to boast about how far he moved Democrats away from “open borders” and secured at least some funding for limited border barriers. Trump would be able to avoid the dead-ends of more government shutdowns and endless court battles, all the while stealing thunder from his opponents.
Trump is playing politics, not the way a bold libertarian type might, but the end result may be much less frightening than our first impressions following his golden escalator announcement. While his endorsement of the 2017 RAISE Act to lower legal immigration caps alarmed many, he’s clearly turned a 180 from that position since “winning” on other economic fronts, like renegotiating and remarketing NAFTA as USMCA, which aims to force car manufacturers into building more factories in the US.
Is this the beginning of the end of the wall as a campaign issue?
“I need people coming in because we need people to run the factories and plants and companies that are moving back in,” Trump told reporters this past week. “We need people.”