Democrats can turn immigration into a total loser for Donald Trump in 2020 — if they dare

Trump obsesses about immigration so voters will blame ‘the other’ while he enriches his friends. This is racism in the service of plutocracy.

When President Donald Trump kicks off his reelection campaign Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, expect him to do what he does in every rally: Demonize immigrants, puff up his strongman persona, and bask in “build the wall” chants. He does so because he believes that immigration is a political winner. Many pundits agree with him.

As an expert in immigration policy and politics, I have a different take. If Democrats are deft and daring, they can transform immigration into his Achilles’ heel.

In the world according to Trump, his 2016 campaign rode racism and xenophobia to victory. In the 2018 midterms, he doubled down, invoking caravans filled with criminals and terrorists and producing an ad so racist even Fox News wouldn’t air it. Republicans suffered the largest midterm popular-vote defeat in American history. 

A wiser president would get it: His obsession with immigration fires up his core supporters but backfires badly with everyone else. Encouraged by White House whisperer Stephen Miller, Trump refuses to let up. Since the midterms, he has demanded billions for his border wall, shuttered the government for 35 days, declared a national emergency of dubious constitutionality, sent troops to the border, decapitated the Department of Homeland Security’s leadership, and threatened economic warfare to get Mexico to (pretend to?) bend the knee.

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Voters agree with Democrats on immigration 

Nevertheless, the numbers of families arriving at the border are sky high. His border strategy is as ineffective as it is cruel.

Meanwhile, at Trump rallies, he tells his followers that he is “finishing the wall” (he’s not) and calls Democrats the party of “open borders and crime” (they’re not). Yes, in 2020 he’s going to run, and run hard, on xenophobia. 

What should Democrats do?

First, Democrats should recognize that the public is with them, not Trump. A majority ofvoters believe that immigration is good for America, object to Trump’s race-baiting divisiveness, reject the practice of ripping toddlers from parents and putting kids in cages, oppose his border wall, and want Congress to create a line for undocumented immigrants to get into — with “Dreamers” and Temporary Protected Status holders in front. 

By Frank Sharry for USA TODAY

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