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If you harbored any doubts that America’s immigration policy debate has become completely devoid of common sense, and that both the nation’s politicians, pollsters, and media seem determined to outdo each other to keep befogging the real issues and options, look no further than how all of the above treat the issue of deporting immigrants already in the United States illegally. It all adds up to a huge and unnecessary tragedy for American public policy. For a series of realistic deportation-related ideas advocated by immigration restrictionists for many years has always offered the nation by far the most efficient, least costly – and, yes, most humane – solution to the illegals problem.

The big news hook here of course comes from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s latest comments on the subject. To hear it from news organizations like The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, Trump has just come out in favor of rounding up this huge population – estimated at 11 million – and herding them back across the Rio Grande. Thus this morning’s Wall Street Journal headline, “Donald Trump Says He Would Deport Illegal Immigrants.” According to Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” who interviewed Trump for this morning’s program, the candidate’s objectives were considerably narrower – but still pretty ambitious: “[H]e plans to immediately rescind President Obama’s executive order that stopped the deportations of some younger undocumented immigrants who had entered the country as children.”

Yet even Todd lumped together several specific questions that desperately need to be unpacked. First, Trump acknowledged that “the executive order gets rescinded.” Revealingly, however, the new immigration policy plan that he’s just released, which has occasioned this latest round of coverage, didn’t even mention deportation, or even the president’s latest initiative. Trump has indeed mentioned deportation previously, but it appears that his priorities have changed. Why did Todd fail even to note this, either while talking with Trump or later in the program?

Just as important, a Trump rollback of the executive order by no means signals that he would start mass deportations on Day One of his presidency – or ever. Nor is there any reason to suppose that any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls who has opposed the Obama moves would unleash the legions of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE). But ending what critics have rightly called executive amnesty is an essential first step for any eventual illegals strategy that doesn’t (a) simply accept their mass presence and (b) in so doing, inevitably strengthen the policy magnet that’s bound to attract many more with its message of leniency. As Trump himself told Todd (who clearly was in no mood to listen), “We have to make a whole new set of standards.”

Two other critical deportation-related matters ignored by Todd and the Journal. First, even the president for years believed that the (longstanding) immigration policy status quo before his executive order was the law of the land. As such, it reflected a national political consensus on the subject. And as such, it’s curious that anyone who’s not an Open Borders ideologue would view a return to this status quo – after a brief departure – as front page news, or even especially noteworthy from a real-world perspective (as opposed to a political perspective).

Second, the president’s initial, much more cautious, view of his immigration authority could soon be re-validated by the courts. So restoring the deportation status quo ante could be not only a substantive nothing-burger, but a legal and constitutional necessity.

Not that Todd, The Wall Street Journal, or the Mainstream Media as a whole deserve all the blame for deportation’s prominence in the immigration debate. Opinion polls have repeatedly cited the round up as the only, or one of the only, alternatives to paths to legal residency or citizenship in dealing with the illegal population. Here are just two examples from CNN/ORC, and from Gallup. And as suggested above, politicians have contributed to the confusion. In addition to Trump himself, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called his illegals strategy “self-deportation.”

Here’s the rub, though. Romney actually got it pretty near right on the substance. As he explained (futilely, of course):

“The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here. And so we’re not going to round people up.”

The former governor continued: “The way that we have in this society is to say, look, people who have come here legally would, under my plan, be given a transition period and the opportunity during that transition period to work here, but when that transition period was over, they would no longer have the documentation to allow them to work in this country. At that point, they can decide whether to remain or whether to return home and to apply for legal residency in the United States, get in line with everybody else. And I know people think but that’s not fair to those that have come here illegally.”

Even better, Romney went on to address the need to turn off the jobs magnet:

“We’d have a card that indicates who’s here illegally. And if people are not able to have a card, and have through an E-Verify system determine that they are here illegally, then they’re going to find they can’t get work here. And if people don’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place where they can get work.” And later on in the campaign, Romney specified that illegals should be denied public benefits.

That is to say, Romney in his own often-fumbling way, hit on by far the best fundamental way to handle the illegals problem – eliminating the incentives attracting them and keeping them here in the first place. And Chuck Todd and The Wall Street Journal to the contrary, that’s exactly the emerging focus of Trump’s illegals strategy.

His immigration blueprint would make the E-Verify system mentioned by Romney mandatory nation-wide, in order to prevent businesses from hiring illegals with impunity. It strangely did not specify that government benefits would be denied to illegals. But that explicit proposal probably isn’t too far down the road, as the Trump plan has noted that “The costs for the United States [of supporting illegal immigrants] have been extraordinary: U.S. taxpayers have been asked to pick up hundreds of billions in healthcare costs, housing costs, education costs, welfare costs, etc. Indeed, the annual cost of free tax credits alone paid to illegal immigrants quadrupled to $4.2 billion in 2011.”

Trump’s most controversial proposal is ending “birthright citizenship” – the longstanding practice of awarding U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born on U.S. territory – which he has described as “the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” But ending federal aid for Sanctuary Cities and other measures to crack down harder on illegal alien criminals and even those who overstay visas – who comprise roughly 40 percent of the illegal population – are bound to attract much more support with voters on both sides of the aisle.

One other important and encouraging feature of Trump’s plan that I’m sure the Mainstream Media in particular will overlook: As I’ve recommended, it dramatically shifts the focus of blame for America’s immigration policy mess from foreign governments (which, to be sure, aren’t blameless) to the real culprit: the nation’s corporate cheap labor lobby. Leading off the plan is the charge that When politicians talk about “immigration reform” they mean: amnesty, cheap labor and open borders. The Schumer-Rubio immigration bill was nothing more than a giveaway to the corporate patrons who run both parties. Real immigration reform puts the needs of working people first – not wealthy globetrotting donors.”

And you thought the political establishment, and the political reporters who coddle them, couldn’t be more scared of Donald Trump?

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