Donald Trump will not be the Republican nominee for president; in the end, the party elite will see to that. But Trump's bullying tactics — and now his bullying ideas for immigration reform — are pushing some of Trump's rivals to take extreme positions.
Such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Walker has been moving in that direction for a while now, telling firebrand conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck earlier this year that he had shifted his stance from support for a path to citizenship — the humane and smart policy — to suggesting he would support limiting even legal immigration.
Now Walker is tacking even harder right as Trump trumpets that he would deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, seize the remittances they send back home and end birthright citizenship. Like all the Republicans, Trump also would build a stronger, taller wall on the Mexican border. He claims he would have the Mexicans pay for it.
Trump's ideas are extreme and logistically and politically impossible, the product, apparently, of Trumpian scholarship, which is to say, no scholarship at all.
But Walker, instead of offering a reasonable plan that has a chance of working or distancing himself from Trump, is doubling down.
The governor now is calling for a wall on the border, too, and appears to be considering the idea of ending birthright citizenship, which has been part of the Constitution since 1868. If you are born here, you are a U.S. citizen, under the 14th Amendment, which was passed to protect former slaves and immigrants. Changing it would likely require a constitutional amendment, a virtual impossibility.
In an interview last week, Walker indicated support for ending birthright citizenship only to hedge later. He seemed unclear on his own position.
Birthright citizenship has a long history of acceptance by the public and the courts. The precept is built on a foundation of fundamental fairness, something that served the country well for nearly 150 years. Republicans who favor ending birthright citizenship usually argue that the lure of citizenship for children contributes to illegal immigration. But where is their evidence? Their argument runs counter to the promise that this nation of immigrants has long offered to the world.
And what of deporting the 11 million now residing in the shadows of the nation — one Trump idea that Walker has not embraced?
Deporting so many people is both logistically impossible and prohibitively expensive; it would take years and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. And to do what? Deport what for the most part are productive, hard-working people.
"If we could get 12 million people to leave, why don't we just do that now? This idea that we're going to get 'em all to leave, and we're going to get the good ones back, it's a fairy tale," Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which seeks to reduce illegal immigration, told the Washington Post. "It's just not the way that government could function. It's dopey. It's a gimmick."
But if it garners you a few more votes in Iowa....
As was the case in 2012 when the Republican candidate Mitt Romney suggested immigrants should "self-deport," the GOP will reap what it sows with Hispanic voters. Party leaders understand this, noting in their "autopsy" after the 2012 president election loss that "If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn't want them in the United States, they won't pay attention to our next sentence."
The nation should reform its broken immigration system by offering legal status to the undocumented in exchange for certain requirements and an eventual path to citizenship.
Trump and Walker, instead, exploit the issue for votes. Walker's willingness to say almost anything on immigration makes us wonder what he really believes. Or if he even knows what he believes.
REPRINTED FROM MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL