Immigration and the Third Debate

Posted on: November 30th, 2016
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Last night’s presidential debate had an unusual format. Rather than devoting just a few minutes per question and not knowing the questions in advance, moderator Chris Wallace chose to include just six subjects and devote 15 minutes to each. The subjects were announced in advance and one was immigration. That was welcome news because immigration has been barely discussed in the prior three debates even though it’s an important subject for both candidates.

Unfortunately, little new ground was broken. Trump sounded very much like a primary candidate and went as hardline on immigration as he has all through the campaign. He labeled Clinton as favoring “amnesty”, accused her of wanting “open borders” where people will pur in to the country (particularly dangerous Islamic terrorist and “bad hombres” from Mexico. The “bad hombres” phrase was already trending on social media before the debate was over. Clinton for her part emphasized an interest in comprehensive reforms with relief for the undocumented as well as strong security. Trump tried to argue that Clinton was previously for building the border wall which appeared to be a new argument. Clinton pointed out that she voted for border fencing and technology as have most members of Congress and that this was hardly a vote for building a massive border wall.

Trump raised the question of whether Mrs. Clinton had called for “open borders” in a speech she gave to the financial industry and which was leaked recently by Wikileaks. Clinton claimed she was talking about energy policy there and then brought up the fact that the leak was tied to hacking by the Russian government. At that point, the conversation turned to a discussion regarding Russia and never returned to immigration.

While I was pleased that immigration was on the agenda, the public learned almost nothing new except that Trump did not do what Romney did in 2012 and move to the center on this critical issue. Trump is performing terribly with Latinos and the debate was perhaps his last opportunity to improve his polling numbers. He’s apparently banking on his hardcore base voting in large enough numbers to offset the increase in immigrant voters and Clinton’s apparent record-setting appeal to that demographic segment.

Here is the transcript from last night if you missed the fireworks:

WALLACE: All right. Let’s move on to the subject of immigration. And there is almost no issue that separates the two of you more than the issue of immigration. Actually, there are a lot of issues that separate the two of you.

Mr. Trump, you want to build a wall. Secretary Clinton, you have offered no specific plan for how you want to secure our southern border. Mr. Trump, you are calling for major deportations. Secretary Clinton, you say that within your first 100 days as president you’re going to offer a package that includes a pathway to citizenship. The question, really, is, why are you right and your opponent wrong?

Mr. Trump, you go first in this segment. You have two minutes.

TRUMP: Well, first of all, she wants to give amnesty, which is a disaster and very unfair to all of the people that are waiting on line for many, many years. We need strong borders.

In the audience tonight, we have four mothers of — I mean, these are unbelievable people that I’ve gotten to know over a period of years whose children have been killed, brutally killed by people that came into the country illegally. You have thousands of mothers and fathers and relatives all over the country. They’re coming in illegally. Drugs are pouring in through the border. We have no country if we have no border.

Hillary wants to give amnesty. She wants to have open borders. The border — as you know, the Border Patrol agents, 16,500-plus ICE last week, endorsed me. First time they’ve ever endorsed a candidate. It means their job is tougher. But they know what’s going on. They know it better than anybody. They want strong borders. They feel we have to have strong borders.

I was up in New Hampshire the other day. The biggest complaint they have — it’s with all of the problems going on in the world, many of the problems caused by Hillary Clinton and by Barack Obama. All of the problems — the single biggest problem is heroin that pours across our southern border. It’s just pouring and destroying their youth. It’s poisoning the blood of their youth and plenty of other people. We have to have strong borders. We have to keep the drugs out of our country. We are — right now, we’re getting the drugs, they’re getting the cash. We need strong borders. We need absolute — we cannot give amnesty.

Now, I want to build the wall. We need the wall. And the Border Patrol, ICE, they all want the wall. We stop the drugs. We shore up the border. One of my first acts will be to get all of the drug lords, all of the bad ones — we have some bad, bad people in this country that have to go out. We’re going to get them out; we’re going to secure the border. And once the border is secured, at a later date, we’ll make a determination as to the rest. But we have some badhombres here, and we’re going to get them out.

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, thank you. Same question to you, Secretary Clinton. Basically, why are you right and Mr. Trump is wrong?

CLINTON: Well, as he was talking, I was thinking about a young girl I met here in Las Vegas, Carla, who is very worried that her parents might be deported, because she was born in this country but they were not. They work hard, they do everything they can to give her a good life.

And you’re right. I don’t want to rip families apart. I don’t want to be sending parents away from children. I don’t want to see the deportation force that Donald has talked about in action in our country.

We have 11 million undocumented people. They have 4 million American citizen children, 15 million people. He said as recently as a few weeks ago in Phoenix that every undocumented person would be subject to deportation. Now, here’s what that means. It means you would have to have a massive law enforcement presence, where law enforcement officers would be going school to school, home to home, business to business, rounding up people who are undocumented. And we would then have to put them on trains, on buses to get them out of our country.

I think that is an idea that is not in keeping with who we are as a nation. I think it’s an idea that would rip our country apart.

I have been for border security for years. I voted for border security in the United States Senate. And my comprehensive immigration reform plan of course includes border security. But I want to put our resources where I think they’re most needed: Getting rid of any violent person. Anybody who should be deported, we should deport them.

When it comes to the wall that Donald talks about building, he went to Mexico, he had a meeting with the Mexican president. Didn’t even raise it. He choked and then got into a Twitter war because the Mexican president said we’re not paying for that wall.

So I think we are both a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws and that we can act accordingly. And that’s why I’m introducing comprehensive immigration reform within the first 100 days with the path to citizenship.

WALLACE: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. I want to follow up…

TRUMP: Chris, I think it’s…

WALLACE: OK.

TRUMP: I think I should respond to that. First of all, I had a very good meeting with the president of Mexico. Very nice man. We will be doing very much better with Mexico on trade deals. Believe me. The NAFTA deal signed by her husband is one of the worst deals ever made of any kind, signed by anybody. It’s a disaster.

Hillary Clinton wanted the wall. Hillary Clinton fought for the wall in 2006 or thereabouts. Now, she never gets anything done, so naturally the wall wasn’t built. But Hillary Clinton wanted the wall.

WALLACE: Well, let me — wait, wait, sir, let me…

TRUMP: We are a country of laws. We either have — and by the way…

WALLACE: Now, wait. I’d like to hear from…

TRUMP: Well — well, but she said one thing.

WALLACE: I’d like to hear — I’d like to hear from Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: I voted for border security, and there are…

TRUMP: And the wall.

CLINTON: There are some limited places where that was appropriate. There also is necessarily going to be new technology and how best to deploy that.

But it is clear, when you look at what Donald has been proposing, he started his campaign bashing immigrants, calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals and drug dealers, that he has a very different view about what we should do to deal with immigrants.

Now, what I am also arguing is that bringing undocumented immigrants out from the shadows, putting them into the formal economy will be good,because then employers can’t exploit them and undercut Americans’ wages.

And Donald knows a lot about this. He used undocumented labor to build the Trump Tower. He underpaid undocumented workers, and when they complained, he basically said what a lot of employers do: “You complain, I’ll get you deported.”

I want to get everybody out of the shadows, get the economy working, and not let employers like Donald exploit undocumented workers, which hurts them, but also hurts American workers.

WALLACE: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: President Obama has moved millions of people out. Nobody knows about it, nobody talks about it. But under Obama, millions of people have been moved out of this country. They’ve been deported. She doesn’t want to say that, but that’s what’s happened, and that’s what happened big league.

As far as moving these people out and moving — we either have a country or we don’t. We’re a country of laws. We either have a border or we don’t.

Now, you can come back in and you can become a citizen. But it’s very unfair. We have millions of people that did it the right way. They’re on line. They’re waiting. We’re going to speed up the process, big league, because it’s very inefficient. But they’re on line and they’re waiting to become citizens.

Very unfair that somebody runs across the border, becomes a citizen, under her plan, you have open borders. You would have a disaster on trade, and you will have a disaster with your open borders.

WALLACE: I want to…

TRUMP: But what she doesn’t say is that President Obama has deported millions and millions of people just the way it is.

WALLACE: Secretary Clinton, I want to…

CLINTON: We will not have open borders. That is…

WALLACE: Well, let me — Secretary…

CLINTON: That is a rank mischaracterization.

WALLACE: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: We will have secure borders, but we’ll also have reform. And this used to be a bipartisan issue. Ronald Reagan was the last president…

WALLACE: Secretary Clinton, excuse me. Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: … to sign immigration reform, and George W. Bush supported it, as well.

WALLACE: Secretary Clinton, I want to clear up your position on this issue, because in a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank, for which you were paid $225,000, we’ve learned from the WikiLeaks, that you said this, and I want to quote. “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” So that’s the question…

TRUMP: Thank you.

WALLACE: That’s the question. Please quiet, everybody. Is that your dream, open borders?

CLINTON: Well, if you went on to read the rest of the sentence, I was talking about energy. You know, we trade more energy with our neighbors than we trade with the rest of the world combined. And I do want us to have an electric grid, an energy system that crosses borders. I think that would be a great benefit to us.

But you are very clearly quoting from WikiLeaks. And what’s really important about WikiLeaks is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans. They have hacked American websites, American accounts of private people, of institutions. Then they have given that information to WikiLeaks for the purpose of putting it on the Internet.

This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government, clearly, from Putin himself, in an effort, as 17 of our intelligence agencies have confirmed, to influence our election.

CLINTON: So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past? Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before.

WALLACE: Well?

TRUMP: That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders, OK? How did we get on to Putin?

WALLACE: Hold on — hold on, wait. Hold on, folks. Because we — this is going to end up getting out of control. Let’s try to keep it quiet so — for the candidates and for the American people.

TRUMP: So just to finish on the borders…

WALLACE: Yes?

TRUMP: She wants open borders. People are going to pour into our country. People are going to come in from Syria. She wants 550 percent more people than Barack Obama, and he has thousands and thousands of people. They have no idea where they come from.

And you see, we are going to stop radical Islamic terrorism in this country. She won’t even mention the words, and neither will President Obama. So I just want to tell you, she wants open borders.

Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good.

He has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president. And I’ll tell you what: We’re in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads — 1,800, by the way — where they expanded and we didn’t, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she’s playing chicken. Look, Putin…

WALLACE: Wait, but…

TRUMP: … from everything I see, has no respect for this person.

CLINTON: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.

TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: And it’s pretty clear…

TRUMP: You’re the puppet!