Republican nominee Donald Trump's recent articulation of a possible "softening" of his immigration policy has, most likely inadvertently and most certainly ironically, introduced a more progressive element into the debate on the issue, the authors of a new book on immigration argue in a Washington Post article.
Karthick Ramakrishnan, Jennifer Merolla and Chris Haynes, whose forthcoming book "Framing Immigrants" discusses American immigration policy, contend that Trump's focus on the idea that illegal aliens who have been here a long time should get special consideration and be allowed to stay in the U.S. is a new way of viewing the national debate on the issue that could lead to more Americans opposing deportation.
If their premise is true, the irony is clear in that the idea came from a populist candidate whose signature policy during his campaign has been to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep out illegal aliens and conduct mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.
The authors' argument centers on Trump's appearance on Sean Hannity's Fox News show last week, in which the candidate asked the raucous "town hall type" crowd who would support deporting illegal immigrants with families who have lived in the U.S. for 20 years and who advocated allowing them to stay, assuming they had no criminal record.
Even though the crowd was overwhelmingly conservative and apparent backers of Trump, a large percentage of the people supported allowing them to remain.
Although critics denounced Trump's tactics as a low-level resort to mob rule, the authors argued that what was important is that he introduced a framework — amount of time in the country — by which many more Americans can perhaps be convinced to become more moderate on the issue of illegal immigrants.
The authors emphasized that this detail of time in the country has not been a focus of the debate up until now, but that research for their book showed that indeed Americans are more willing to show flexibility on the issue the longer an undocumented immigrant is living in the U.S.
The authors said they also found that despite the public holding this view, news stories in the past decade rarely covered this angle of how much time the illegal has been in the U.S. This minimal coverage came not only from conservative outlets but also more mainstream and liberal ones as well.
The authors say that the attention now being focused on this aspect of the issue dramatically increases the chances, no matter who wins the election, of a more progressive policy on the issue being adopted that what would have been without Trump's theatrics.
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