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Donald Trump says “everything is negotiable” about his immigration plan. That statement yesterday comes after BuzzFeed’s editor suggested Trump told New York Times editors — in an off-the-record chat — that he would be willing to compromise on the plan, including mass deportation of undocumented immigrants. Many Trump supporters might assume the GOP presidential candidate intends to send some 11 million of these folks packing, with many or most never to return. This could be a brutal and oppressive process. And expensive.
But as my colleague Marc Thiessen has pointed out, what Trump really has been proposing is something that might eventually allow almost all to eventually get permanent legal status here in America.
Here is an example of Trump talking about his deportation plan:
I would get people out and then have an expedited way of getting them back into the country so they can be legal…. A lot of these people are helping us … and sometimes it’s jobs a citizen of the United States doesn’t want to do. I want to move ’em out, and we’re going to move ’em back in and let them be legal.
This is a policy called “touchback” and it was first proposed in 2007 by moderate Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX). She offered a “touchback” amendment on the Senate floor that would have required illegal immigrants to return to their home countries to apply for a special “Z visa” that would allow them to re-enter the United States in an expedited fashion and work here indefinitely….
The fact is, Trump won’t need a “deportation force” or an “Operation Wetback” to get illegal immigrants to go home — because he has promised that they can return quickly with legal status.… Under his plan, illegal aliens don’t have to go to the end of the line behind those who have complied with our immigration laws. They get an “expedited way of getting them back into the country so they can be legal.” They get to cut the line and then stay in America.… Trump’s plan is in fact a form of amnesty — you just have to leave the country briefly to get it.
But would the undocumented even have to leave the country? Here is an interesting scenario outlined by Scott Adams, who has been uncannily accurate in forecasting the Trump phenomenon:
But what about Trump’s statement that they “have to go.” Trump makes it sound like he is going to physically move illegals to Mexico. But here’s a way to finesse it.
Using the embassy model, the U.S. could pass a law that makes temporary Mexican embassies out of individual rooms in government buildings near every community. That way an illegal can drive to the Post Office (for example), go into the “Mexico room” and be back in Mexico, legally speaking. Then we process that illegal immigrant’s paperwork and make him a citizen … .
I mean, who knows? As Edward Luce argues in the Financial Times today, ” …not having policies is also Mr Trump’s greatest strength. It makes him nimble.” Perhaps we’ll find out if Trump supporters possess a fine appreciation for political nimbleness.