With a new Fox News national poll showing him leading in the race for the GOP presidential nomination nationwide with 25 percent of Republican voters, billionaire Donald Trump returned to a favorite theme on Sunday – promising to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and deporting illegal immigrant—including their children.
Trump, who arrived with a flourish at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday in a black helicopter with his name emblazoned on the side, told NBC Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd that the millions of illegal immigrants in this country “have to go,” even if that means the government rounding up and deporting whole families.
The real estate tycoon roiled the political and public policy waters this spring by denouncing many of the illegal immigrants as “rapists” and criminals who were encouraged to come to this country by the Mexican government. During his Meet the Press appearance that was taped a day before, he voiced continued outrage over President Obama’s executive action that would protect as many as five million undocumented children and their families from deportation.
Like many of the other Republican candidates, Trump promised as one of his first acts as president to rescind the orders liberalizing immigration policy for youthful “Dreamers” and their families, and devise “a whole new set of standards.” Asked by Todd whether that meant he favored splitting up families by sending them back to Mexico or Latin America, Trump replied, “Chuck, no, no. We’re going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together, but they have to go.”
“We will work with them, but they have to go,” Trump added, suggesting that millions of deported immigrants will have to formally apply for entry into the U.S. after they are sent back to their country of origin. “Chuck, we either have a country or we don’t have a country…. We will do it [export families] and we will expedite it so people can come back in.”
“Chuck, it will work out so well, you will be so happy,” Trump gushed. “In four years you will be interviewing me and you’re going to say, ‘What a great job you’ve done, President Trump.”
Some Republican Party officials are concerned that Trump’s anti-immigration comments are over the top and will cost their party the Hispanic vote, just as Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, lost substantial Latino support by calling on illegal immigrants to “self-deport.” Yet Trump has steadily climbed in the polls with a relentless patter of criticism of Obama immigration policies that he argues have allowed immigrants to steal the jobs of Americans and exhaust the resources of public schools and social programs.
On Saturday, NBC News reported on a five-page document it obtained from Trump’s campaign entitled “Immigration reforms that will make America great again” that includes the promise to “put American workers first.” The document also repeated Trump’s pledge to build a wall to seal off the US-Mexican border, a project that Trump insists would be paid for by the Mexican government.
Trump has been under pressure from the media and his critics to flesh out his immigration policies beyond his conservative crowd-pleasing pot shots at illegal immigrants and Obama’s executive orders.
Trump told The Washington Post on Friday he will unveil a series of position papers in September and that he consulted last month with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in preparing his immigration reform policies.
Sessions, an arch southern conservative and Tea Party ally who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s on immigration, was dubbed “Capitol Hill’s agitator-in-chief” by Politico during the deadlock over Obama’s immigration executive orders and a funding controversy that threatened to temporarily shut down the Department of Homeland Security. Sessions more recently has bitterly fought Obama’s fast-track Pacific Rim trade policies, issuing detailed reports on how they would hurt average American workers.
Sessions was the leader of the opposition to the Senate’s passage of the “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform legislation in 2013 that tightened border security but also provided millions of illegal immigrants with a long pathway to legal status or citizenship.
More recently, as subcommittee chair, Sessions has shined a critical spotlight on H-1B visas that benefit immigrants with sophisticated technical skills—one of the tech industry’s most sought after initiative.
“I am opposed to any immigration policy which makes it harder for the unemployed to find jobs and easier for employers to keep pay low,” Sessions said in the introduction to a 25-page manual he circulated to House and Senate Republicans in January, ahead of a GOP retreat.
Trump continues to lead the crowded field of 17 Republican candidates with 25 percent of the national GOP electorate, just slightly less than before his performance in the first nationally televised presidential debate August 6, according to Fox News. After tangling with Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly, Trump’s support among women went from 24 percent two weeks ago to 21 percent today. He mostly held steady among men with 28 percent.
Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson scored a surprising second-place finish, with 12 percent – or five percentage points higher since the debate. Carson was followed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 10 percent and former Florida governor Jeb Bush with only nine percent.