What’s Next for the GOP on Immigration?

Immigration law has hardly changed during Donald Trump’s presidency. The fact may be surprising given that immigration was the most important discrete issue on which he campaigned and immigration has been a reliable source of controversy since he took office.

Nevertheless it is true. None of the big changes to immigration policy for which Trump has at various times called has come to pass. The physical barriers on the southern border are not much more extensive than they were when Trump took office; we are nowhere close to having a wall. The number of legal immigrants we commit to accepting has not declined. Nor have our policies been changed to place a greater emphasis on high-skilled immigrants than on the siblings of previous immigrants. People who came to this country illegally as minors, known as the “Dreamers” because of a legislative acronym from a few years back, still don’t have regular legal status. Trump and his appointees have certainly changed some executive-branch practices, but the next president who disagrees with the new ones will be able to change them right back.

This state of affairs shows every sign of persisting for the next several years. Conservatives who are unhappy with it should devote some thought to why so little progress has been made, and prepare so they’re ready the next time there’s a chance to make some.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Trump made the wall into the test of toughness on illegal immigration — more than requiring companies to verify the legal status of new employees, which would probably do more to reduce illegal immigration. But he didn’t make getting funding for a wall a priority when Republicans held Congress. Republican leaders in Congress certainly weren’t going to fight hard for a wall when Trump wasn’t asking them to: It was his cause, not theirs.

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