Trump’s Use of Immigration as 2020 Wedge Could Backfire on Other Policies

Donald Trump’s push to restrict immigration is clashing with policy goals in ways that detractors and even some supporters say could hurt his 2020 reelection bid.

It’s happened, they note, on everything from Trump’s effort to weaken Iran’s Islamist regime, to his attempts to strike a trade deal with Mexico, to his push to oust Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro. And it could happen on gun control, if Trump tries to wed expanded background checks with an immigration overhaul.

To pro-immigrant advocates, Trump simply wants to inject immigration into as many discussions to keep it alive an election wedge issue. They argue he’s blind to the consequences that is having on his other major initiatives.

“Everything you see is about 2020,” said David Leopold, a prominent immigration lawyer and Trump critic. “He uses the issue — a very serious policy issue, a complicated policy problem, immigration — he uses it for purely selfish political reasons, to throw red meat to his base.”

But others insist he is purely going off instinct. Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors curbing immigration, laughed when asked if there was a strategy behind some of Trump’s moves.

“There are both supporters and detractors of his who imagine he’s playing 40-dimensional string theory chess, when in fact he’s just operating from his gut,” he said.

Regardless, Trump’s approach to immigration has — intentionally or not — gotten mixed up with his administration’s other initiatives.

One major Trump foreign policy goal is forcing out Maduro, whom Trump no longer recognizes as Venezuela’s president. Trump and his aides have pointed to Venezuela’s misery — an economic collapse, food and medicine shortages and corruption — as reasons why Maduro should be ousted.

But even as the Trump team has detailed the horrifying conditions that have led millions of Venezuelans to flee, it has ignored calls to grant Venezuelans in the United States “temporary protected status” so that they can stay in America even if they lack legal status.

By Nahal Toosi for POLITICO.COM
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