WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2015 — Donald Trump is framing the 2016 election on the illegal immigration debate by adopting an early and divisive immigration plan. The plan has serious faults, but criticism must be aimed at improving his platform as well as the overall policy debate.
Immigration is not just a domestic issue. It is also a foreign policy test. How the presidential candidates address issues like illegal immigration will seriously affect their ability to engage matters of state in a constructive manner.
President George W. Bush pursued a national security agenda that often alienated foreigners. By invading Iraq without proper justification, for example, Bush raised concerns that the United State was becoming a national security threat to other countries. Often ignoring the concerns of the Saudis and dismissing the legitimate grievances of Iraqis, Bush further alienated Arabs while undermining his ability to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Similarly, contenders for the 2016 presidential election risk creating unnecessary foreign policy complications by engaging in divisive rhetoric and counterproductive policies.
Whoever is elected to White House in 2016 must be able to approach issues like immigration in a diplomatic manner. This means offering clear, effective policy options that address the interests of the American people while simultaneously engaging foreign powers to help alleviate the issues driving illegal immigration.
The George W. Bush administration, which pursued immigration reform in a responsible manner, struggled with the Middle East due to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The next president will struggle with the Middle East, Russia, China and South America and serious global economic hazards. Unrest continue in the Middle East, the Ukraine crisis will require an eventual reset of U.S.-Russian relations, and China’s emergence as a global power will fuel conflict with the U.S. South America faces growing civil unrest due to a legacy of unaddressed socioeconomic conflicts.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump declared his intent to run for the presidency by categorizing illegal immigrants as criminals, rapists and degenerates. Trump’s sentiments and outrage from the Latin community ultimately cost him lucrative business relationships with Macy’s and NBC. Clearly, his views on illegal immigration hurt his standing with Mexicans.
Given the ongoing drug cartel war and massive civil unrest over government corruption, Mexico cannot simply be ignored by the United States. After all, Mexico shares a border with the United States and the need to build strong economic and national security partnership.
If threats of “Latin Spring” revolutions material into a regional phenomena, the U.S. cannot afford to diplomatically and economically disengage from its own hemisphere.
Although Trump’s plan resonates well among certain groups, it pursues the unrealistic goal of deporting all 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. It seeks to strip away the birthright of U.S. citizenship and increases the fees for legal immigration. If Trump cannot adapt or respond to these key concerns about his policies, he will likely not do so well in the general election.
If Donald Trump and his political rivals want to be successful, they need to learn to confront illegal immigration without condemning Hispanics. Candidates can be tough on issues like illegal immigration, but they also need to recognize they are talking about people in need of solutions.
Instead of just condemning people in need, American and foreign policymakers must put forth policies that help solve the problem for everyone.