That’s right, you read that correctly, Republican presidential candidate, Donald J Trump may be the only presidential candidate with a strategy, a plan and a chance to pass comprehensive immigration reform. You all probably think I am crazy, or that when I say immigration reform, I mean giant electrified fences across the Rio Grande and mass detention and deportation centers in the Sonoran dessert. But you are wrong, I am talking about the comprehensive immigration reform that provides the across the board, legalize most of the 11 million who are here, deport some, background checks for all and secures the border. Yes, I think he is the only candidate who is already executing a strategy to make it happen.
Before you stop reading and think this is a endorsement for Trump, let me assure you, I have not yet voted in next week’s Florida primary, and I honestly have not made up my mind on who I will vote for. This is the first election I remember where I have no idea who I will vote for for president this far into the cycle. I still don’t have my candidate, but I follow politics very closely and I think I am finally starting to get Donald Trump.
I tell my son all the time, most of what every politician says you shouldn’t believe because most of what they say they don’t believe. They are just saying things or taking positions for some reason or another. I believe this old adage to be true: politics is the opposite of principle.
That is because to fit into our little two-party system, you have to be one or the other, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. Moderate or independent is a dirty word and they don’t win. This forces reasonable people who, have a core set of moral and political beliefs to say things and take positions that they honestly don’t agree with just to run for office. Some politicians have become so good at this ideological relativism that like really good character actors, they have no core set of beliefs or principles and can sound convincing playing any role or taking any position. This is why many attorneys feel so comfortable running for office. We are paid to represent people and take legal positions with which we may be morally and socially opposed, but its our job to do it and we have to do it well or we will not be very successful.
Like most reasonable people, Donald Trump has a history of tweaking and changing his views about political issues over time. That is not necessarily a sign of a weak set of core of principles, is often a sign of intelligence that we are not wed forever to everything we believe when we are 20 years old. As President Obama likes to say, people can evolve in the views of issues. People who have never change their opinions on political matters, no matter the evidence against them and no matter the changes they experience in life are a bit off-putting. No reasonable person I have ever met has the same exact opinions on everything at 40 that they did at 20, that would be absurd.
So back to why Trump is the only one who can bring us to real, lasting, bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. . . because only Nixon could go to China. For those of you upon whom this metaphor is lost, let me explain. Richard Nixon, long before he was disgraced with Watergate and Oliver Stone movies, was a military veteran, staunch opponent to everything Red, pink or otherwise associated with Communism. There was no one in the Western Hemisphere who people trusted more to battle the commies than Dick Nixon. So when he decided that the time was right to restore diplomatic ties with Red China in 1972, the right trusted him, the moderates were intrigued and the left applauded his outreach and open mindedness. If a Democrat or someone without the same anti-communist resume and chops as Nixon had reached out to Beijing, they would have been attacked as weak, pandering, or offering appeasement at a Neville Chamberlain level. But not Nixon, he was the only president who could pull off this feat.
That is exactly why a President Trump could be the only president to convince the right, middle and left that whatever deal they all brokered on immigration reform, was the right one. If Trump had started his campaign exhorting the extols of undocumented immigrants, he would have been destroyed by Ted Cruz and the anti-immigrant right as weak on immigration. Even as president, a weak-on-immigrant President Trump, like a weak on immigration President George W. Bush would never have been able to convince everyone that a deal on immigration reform he supported was the right deal for America.
Instead, Trump has been negotiating with the political right and the left since 2015 when he first came out and called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. There is no where to go from that position other than to soften it during negotiation. And as Trump always tells us, he is a fantastic negotiator. Every good negotiator knows that you always negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness. And a great negotiator is already working you for a better deal long before you even know you are negotiating. So mark my words, as Trump gets closer and closer to the nomination and closer and closer to president, his positions will begin to moderate, like an olive branch to the left, while still reminding the right of how tough he is on border security and illegal immigration. All the while his immigration team will be hammering out a deal for immigration peace in our time.
Even if we don’t like the president who give us the immigration reform that we want, will any of us turn down a glass of water when we thirst simply because of from whom it is offered? I think not.
John Gihon is a Florida Bar Board Certified expert in Immigration and Nationality Law.