Legislative Update: 11/15/2016
Donald J. Trump Elected President of the United States
In a stunning upset last week, Republican nominee Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. The New York business mogul was officially declared the winner over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the early morning hours last Wednesday when Trump’s win in Pennsylvania sent him above the 270 electoral votes needed to become president. Currently, Trump leads Clinton 290-228 in the Electoral College with Michigan and New Hampshire still uncalled. Trump is expected to win Michigan’s 16 electoral votes (giving him 306) and Clinton is expected to win New Hampshire’s 4 electoral voters (giving her 232). Trump’s 306-232 win is the largest GOP presidential win since George H.W. Bush’s victory in 1988.
Many of the same pundits and pollsters who predicted a Clinton victory also viewed Trump as a down ballot liability for Republicans that would hand control of the Senate back to Democrats. In the end, that proved to be false. Despite defending 24 Senate seats, Republicans only lost two (notably senators who ran away from Trump during the campaign), thus maintaining a 52-48 majority in the 115th Congress. Similarly, Republicans only lost a handful of House seats, keeping an impressive 238-193 majority for the new Congress. Trump will be sworn in as our nation’s next president on January 20, 2017.
Trump’s election is the clearest sign that the American people are fed up with business as usual in Washington. Nowhere has the public’s mistrust of government been more evident than in the area of immigration policy. Trump made immigration reform a cornerstone of his campaign and his pledge to make the interests of the American people paramount in this policy area was instrumental in propelling him to victory. Americans are fed up with mass immigration and are now looking to President-elect Trump to enact some of the meaningful policy changes he discussed in his campaign.
FAIR looks forward to working with the incoming administration to ensure that the President-elect’s pledges to enforce our laws and restore the public interest in immigration policy are successfully implemented.
President-Elect Trump Affirms Pledge to Enforce Immigration Laws
President-elect Donald Trump made immigration enforcement a key component of his campaign for the White House. After emphasizing it when announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination, Trump unveiled a detailed immigration plan in August 2015 that rejected amnesty and focused on immigration enforcement. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 25, 2015) That plan, which was developed with guidance from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), centered on three “core principles” of immigration reform: control the border; enforce immigration laws; and prioritize American workers. (Id.) Then, after clinching the GOP nomination, Trump delivered a high profile immigration enforcement speech a few months ago in Arizona that refuted media speculation at the time that Trump was “softening” his immigration stance. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 6, 2016)
Now, as President-elect, Trump is sending a clear message that he intends to keep his promises on immigration enforcement. Just days after winning the election, Trump’s transition team posted the same 10 points he raised in that Arizona speech as his plan to “restore integrity to our immigration system, protect our communities, and put America first.” (President-Elect Trump’s Immigration Plan; see ImmigrationReform.com, Nov. 10, 2016) Over the weekend, Trump sat down for an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” and vowed to prioritize the removal of dangerous criminal aliens. “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million – it could be even 3 million—we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” the president-elect said. (CBS “60 Minutes”, Nov. 13, 2016) “But we’re getting them out of our country. They’re here illegally.” (Id.)
Pre-Election Immigration Poll Foreshadowed Trump Victory
Key findings from a Pulse Opinion Research poll of likely voters commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and taken November 1-3 showed that Americans want our immigration laws enforced. (See CIS Survey Highlights Popularity of Immigration Enforcement, Nov. 8, 2016) The poll, which was released just ahead of Election Day, proved to be a harbinger for what happened on election night and underscores how President-elect Donald Trump’s enforcement message resonated with the American people. (Id.)
Unlike most immigration-focused polls that offer misleading choices, the Pulse Opinion poll presented Americans with legitimate options. Indeed, nearly every immigration poll offered the false choice of “ripping families apart” by deporting 11 million illegal aliens or providing these aliens with a “path to citizenship.” This wording is intentionally done to claim that most people support mass amnesty. Instead, this Pulse Opinion poll used “neutral language” that “asked respondents if they support causing illegal immigrants to leave the country by enforcing the law.” (Id.) The results were overwhelming in favor of immigration enforcement: 56 percent of likely voters supported “causing illegal aliens to return to their home countries by penalizing employers, getting cooperation from local law enforcement, and denying welfare benefits” and 54 percent believe that there has been “too little effort placed on enforcing our immigration laws.” (Id.) Significantly, among Hispanic voters, 51 percent responded that “efforts to enforce our immigration laws have been too little” compared to just 38 percent that said it was too much or just right. (Id.)
In addition, the Pulse Opinion poll found that 58 percent of those surveyed want to dry up the incentives for illegal aliens to sneak into America by “requiring employers to verify the legal status of their workers.” (Id.) Comparatively, only 35 percent responded that illegals “should be first given work permits and put on a path to citizenship.” (Id.)
Finally, this poll echoed earlier findings that Americans want to lower the number of legal immigrants coming to America. According to the Pulse Opinion poll, 54 percent of respondents indicated that legal immigration should be limited to 500,000 or fewer – about half the number currently admitted. (Id.) Just 11 percent want to maintain the current level of one million per year. (Id.) Hispanic respondents were comparative to the overall respondents with 52 percent wanting 500,000 or fewer legal immigrants and 9 percent indicating they would like to maintain the current level. (Id.)
To see the entire survey, click here.
States Follow Trump’s Lead
Voters spoke loud and clear last Tuesday affirming their support for the enforcement of immigration law. In addition to electing Donald Trump to the presidency, voters supported many state and local candidates who promoted immigration enforcement and cooperation between state and local officials with the federal government. In particular, gubernatorial and sheriff candidates with strong stances on immigration enforcement largely saw success nationwide.
For example, in New Hampshire, Republican Chris Sununu defeated Democrat Colin Van Ostern for the governorship. (Fox25 Boston, Nov. 9, 2016) Voters rejected Van Ostern’s weak enforcement positions and eagerness to increase refugee resettlement into the state. Sununu, conversely, has vocally opposed the Obama administration’s immigration agenda and its plans to increase refugee admission to the United States. (WMUR, Sept. 7, 2016) “The federal government cannot and has not shown their ability to do their job, to protect our citizens; to use the vetting process as well as it can be used to ensure who’s coming in and what their motives are. So I showed up and I said no to that. The idea that immigration is a work force driver for the state of New Hampshire, I completely disagree with,” said Sununu. (Id.)
Missouri Republican Eric Greitens also successfully secured the governor’s seat last week. (St. Louis Post Dispatch, Nov. 9, 2016) During his campaign, Eric Greitens strongly opposed amnesty for illegal aliens and opposed sanctuary policies that impede the enforcement of immigration law by prohibiting cooperation between law enforcement and federal officials. (Greitens Statement, July 29, 2016) Greitens also opposed increasing security risks by resettling additional Syrian refugees into the United States. (Daily Mail, July 20, 2016) “I oppose sanctuary cities and oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. Our FBI Director has said there’s no way to properly screen Syrian refugees, and I believe that we need to listen to him and that unless they can be vetted no refugees should be resettled in MO or the United States,” stated Greitens in an online post. (Greitens Statement, July 29, 2016)
In Vermont, Republican Phil Scott defeated Democrat Sue Miller. (Boston.com, Nov. 9, 2016) The candidates differed substantially on their immigration positions. Notably, Phil Scott opposed the creation of a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens and believed the country should take a pause on refugee resettlement until security procedures could be strengthened. (Vermont Voter Guide, 2016; VPR, Nov. 19, 2015) “I still feel the highest priority of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. And I think that in light of having two of our border states, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, asking for a pause in this refugee program, I think it’s incumbent upon us to do the same until such time as the federal government can prove its meeting its national security obligations,” explained Scott. (Id.)
In Indiana, Eric Holcomb, who has served as Lieutenant Governor under Governor Mike Pence, defeated challenger Democrat John Gregg to replace the Vice President-elect as Governor of Indiana. (IndyStar, Nov. 9, 2016) Eric Holcomb largely embraced Governor Pence’s decision to combat refugee resettlement into the state, although never elaborated on what step the state should take next. Challenger John Gregg, however, failed to take a strong position on immigration entirely and supported providing illegal aliens with in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities. (Indiana Gubernatorial Debate, Oct. 3, 2016) John Gregg also openly opposed Governor Pence’s efforts to pause Syrian refugee resettlement in Indiana. (Id.)
Additionally, voters from Butler County, Ohio chose Republican incumbent Sheriff Rick Jones over his Democratic challenger Dale Richter last week. (Journal-News, Nov. 8, 2016) Sheriff Jones is long known as an outspoken supporter of immigration enforcement. In addition to entering into 287g agreements with ICE to allow his officers to engage in immigration enforcement related tasks, the sheriff has also assigned detectives to investigate local employers who illegally hire unauthorized aliens. (Cincinnati.com, Aug. 25, 2015) Sheriff Jones is most known, however, for sending an open letter to the Mexican president in 2014 requesting reimbursement for costs associated to criminal aliens from Mexico. (Cincinnati.com, July, 29, 2014)
Sheriff Joseph McDonald, of Plymouth County, Massachusetts also won a reelection for a six-year term as county sheriff. (WickedLocal, Nov. 9, 2016) In addition to supporting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials, Sheriff McDonald spoke out last year against the Obama administration’s Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). (Cape Cod Times, Aug. 6, 2015) Sheriff McDonald branded PEP as ineffective and explained that it allows criminal aliens to escape enforcement and return to American communities. (Id.) “I wouldn’t characterize it as a liberal policy,” McDonald said. (Id.) “It’s a lax policy.” (Id.)
These election results reflect voter opinion nationwide. Similar trends were also apparent in the 2014 election, which signaled voter strong support for immigration enforcement at the state and local level. (FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 11, 2014)