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196 SEVEN Good Fences Make Good Neighbors Immigration and Border Security On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump convened his supporters and the media in the lobby of his eponymous tower in midtown Manhattan. His ostensiblepurposewastodeclarethathewouldseekthepresidencyoftheUnitedStates . Butwhatmadeheadlineswasnotthatlong-­anticipatedannouncementbutrather his vow to crack down on illegal immigration. As the mogul explained, “When Mexicosendsits­people,­they’renotsendingtheirbest. . . . ​­They’resending­people that have lots of prob­ lems. . . . ​­ They’re bringing drugs. ­ They’re bringing crime.­ They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good ­ people.” Trump had spoken to U.S. border guards, and their message to him was clear: the United States had lost control of its southern frontier, resulting in a flood of illegal immigrants. Some might even be ­ Middle Eastern terrorists, he speculated. “But we ­ don’t know. ­ Because we have no protection and we have no competence, [so] we ­ don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.” Fortunately, the newly minted candidate had a solution: “I ­ will build a ­ great, ­ great wall on our southern border,” he promised. “And I ­ will have Mexico pay for that wall.”1 Trump’s pledge galvanized many Americans frustrated by years of broken promises from politicians to “solve” the crisis of illegal immigration. By October 2015, some 73 ­ percent of Republicans surveyed, as well as 43 ­ percent of in­ de­ pen­ dents (and 29 ­ percent of Demo­ crats), endorsed Trump’s proposal. Not only was the concept of a wall easy to communicate, it also resonated with commonsense concepts of national sovereignty.2 07-3159-7_ch7.indd 196 9/11/17 1:10 PM Good Fences Make Good Neighbors 197 Trump did not retreat from this pledge ­ after securing the GOP nomination , despite the risk of alienating Hispanic and moderate, college-­ educated swing voters. Indeed, he doubled down. On August 31, 2016, the candidate traveled to Mexico City for private discussions with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. In the subsequent press conference, Trump suggested the two had reached a fundamental agreement: “Having a secure border is a sovereign right and mutually beneficial,” he declared. “We recognize and re­ spect the right of any country to build a physical barrier or wall on any of its borders to stop the illegal movement of ­ people, drugs, and weapons.”3 Back on U.S. soil in Phoenix that eve­ning, Trump delivered a hardline speech on curbing illegal immigration. “It’s our right, as a sovereign nation, to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us,” he began. The first item in his ten-­ point plan was his signature pledge: “On day one [of my administration], we ­ will begin working on a tangible, physical, tall, power­ ful, beautiful southern border wall.” Trump also promised to end the “catch and release” of illegal immigrants, expand Amer­i­ca’s deportation force, shut down the “jobs and benefits magnet” attracting illegal immigrants, and conduct “extreme vetting” of all aspiring mi­ grants. “And if ­ people ­ don’t like it, ­ we’ve got to have a country folks. Got to have a country.”4 Trump campaigned as a demagogue and a xenophobe. But he successfully tapped into widespread anx­ i­ eties that the United States had lost control over its borders, with potentially catastrophic long-­ term consequences for U.S. prosperity, security, and societal cohesion. Trump was hardly the first American populist to amplify nativist prejudices and insecurities. Concerns that permissive immigration policies would permit entry of “undesirables ” date from at least the mid-­ nineteenth ­ century, when waves of Irish fleeing the potato famine began to alter the country’s demographic makeup.­ Later in that ­ century the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred immigrants from China. Following a massive wave of arrivals from southern and eastern Eu­ rope in the first two de­ cades of the twentieth ­ century, the United States passed the Immigration Act of 1924, the most restrictive such law in U.S. history. Seven de­ cades ­ later, anti-­ immigrant nativism featured prominently in the failed 1992 presidential bid of GOP conservative firebrand Patrick J. Buchanan , as well as in the successful 1994 reelection of California’s Republican governor Pete Wilson, who narrowly won by vocally supporting Proposition 187. That state ballot initiative (christened “Save our State” or SOS) established a citizenship screening system to deny illegal aliens public ser­ vices, including access to education and nonemergency health care. 07-3159-7_ch7.indd 197 9/11/17 1:10 PM...


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