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Donald Trump has been getting it from all sides because of his recent, contradictory statements on immigration policy, and whatever the motives, the criticisms of the Republican presidential candidate are richly deserved for one fundamental reason: You don’t need to be an Open Borders fan or a total deportation hardliner to recognize that, with just over two months left till Election Day, Trump should at least have the main details of his approach down cold. It’s painfully clear that he doesn’t.

Even worse, if you’re a Trump supporter, the core precepts of a sensible and politically appealing alternative to current immigration policy – and to the even more permissive version being pushed by his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton – are anything but rocket science. And this description even applies to policies for dealing with the nation’s current illegal immigrant population, the dimension of immigration reform widely thought to present policymakers with their most difficult, even agonizing, choices, and that’s given Trump the greatest difficulty over the last week.

Trump has announced that he’ll be giving a speech on immigration this Wednesday, and if he has any hope of clarifying his views in a way likely to win more votes than it loses, here’s what he’ll have to do.

To start, Trump needs to remember that the kind of mass deportation he’s referred to in TV interviews was not part of the immigration blueprint he released a year ago – and for very good reasons. Surely at one point he and his team recognized the logistical nightmare, budget-busting costs, and public relations disaster this idea entailed.

Then the candidate needs to remember that he and his team recognized that the nation is by no means therefore stuck with the various versions of soft or quasi-amnesties with which he’s flirted in recent days. For that immigration blueprint made a compelling, though only partial and implicit, case for addressing the great majority of the illegal population that has been otherwise law-abiding through attrition. That is, rather than trying actively to kick millions of men, women, and children out of he country, Washington would concentrate on steadily reducing this population by turning off or weakening the two big magnets collectively responsible for their presence.

The first of course concerns jobs, and the Trump blueprint identifies most of the answer – mandating nation-wide use by employers of the E-verify system, a computerized means of identifying job applicants residing in America without proper authorization. As I’ve reported, where it has been used, E-verify boasts an outstanding record of success. And its effectiveness could be supercharged by requiring that businesses pay truly painful penalties for violations.

The second big magnet encompasses various kinds of public assistance currently being extended to illegal immigrants, but the Trump blueprint covered only some of the bases. Yes, de-funding sanctuary cities would help bring to an end the extra layer of legal protection perversely provided throughout the country even for criminal aliens. But the statement should have also expressly prohibited any state from providing driver’s licenses and public college tuition benefits for illegals.

Even these measures would leave intact two big illegal immigrant drains on the public purse – their families’ use of hospital emergency rooms and public schools, and their eligibility for and use of transfer payments and entitlement programs like Obamacare (especially by “anchor children,” who are born in the United States and thus automatically enjoy full citizenship rights). The Trump blueprint glosses over the former issue and would handle the latter by ending birthright citizenship.

In principle, I support preventing illegals from trying to strengthen their legal status in America by creating these human faits accompli. But I also foresee a huge constitutional fight that would take years at best to resolve. As a result, it makes the most sense to rely mainly on turning off the jobs magnet in order to persuade illegals to leave the United States. Clearly, many would remain, counting on their ability to receive public assistance via the anchor children route. But using an E-Verify-type system to crack down on welfare use gained through falsified documents would pare illegals’ numbers further. And the new barriers to finding American jobs would help prevent future surges in their ranks – especially if the U.S. economy’s growth picked up enough to boost employment opportunities greatly.

Obviously, this attrition strategy wouldn’t placate either extreme on the spectrum of immigration policy views. But along with the serious border enforcement Trump has consistently promised, it would achieve the crucial aims of bringing the illegals population down to much more economically manageable levels, and keeping it there. And attrition would do so in the “fair” and “humane” way that Trump understands a critical mass of American voters – rightly – are seeking.  

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