The mainstream media and the Democrats have become complacent on the issue of illegal immigration. President Obama and Hillary Clinton clearly see it as the norm simply to shrug and accept the idea that people can illegally enter the United States and stay indefinitely without penalty. For them, even raising the idea of curbing illegal immigration makes one a bigot or a xenophobe.
We are a country of immigrants who have built this great nation, but it is legal immigration that we should be recognizing and encouraging. Legal immigrants deserve respect for following the laws of our nation and completing the process. This is not an extreme concept. It is a matter of simply protecting our nation’s sovereignty and knowing who is coming into our nation.
At one point, Mrs. Clinton agreed with these concepts. She once adamantly opposed illegal immigration and supported the Secure Fence Act to protect our borders. Now, she says, she hates the wall that Donald Trump promises to build and supports expanding Mr. Obama’s executive orders on amnesty and open-borders policies.
The Democratic nominee is putting out a welcome mat for foreign nationals who believe that they can overstay their visas or cross the border illegally. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have sent an unmistakable signal to rest of the world that the U.S. won’t protect its borders or enforce its basic laws. That only encourages more immigrants to jump the line and find an alternate route to enter the United States. Of course, the media by and large can’t be bothered to call Mrs. Clinton on her immigration flip-flops.
Instead, the liberal press has jumped on Mr. Trump, labeling him a bully and a xenophobe. But even putting the name-calling aside, the media fail to understand how important it is to end the cycle of illegal immigration that has been mismanaged for decades.
Mr. Trump wants citizens of other nations to know that there is a legal process that needs to be followed, and that that process is only way to come to America. His tough talk is backed by a package of policies that would end sanctuary cities, revise our antiquated visa system, swiftly deport illegal immigrants who are criminals, increase the number of border agents and ICE deportation officers, and build that wall. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, his position on immigration has not changed since he declared his candidacy.
Liberal pundits were outraged that Mr. Trump did not pivot and embrace comprehensive immigration “reform” like his opponent. But Mr. Trump’s bigger challenge is bringing along GOP Hispanic voters, many of whom have been on the fence — no pun intended — about his candidacy. There was hope that he would be open to dealing with the 11 million or more illegal immigrants already in the United States in a fair way, but it now looks as if he has doubled down on his insistence that “anyone who entered the country illegally is subject to deportation.”
A vast majority of Hispanic Republicans believe that illegal immigrants should have a pathway for legalization and were looking for some compassionate language from Mr. Trump in his address Wednesday night. Mr. Trump missed the opportunity to share the positive stories of legal immigrants who contribute to our nation in countless ways and discuss a realistic path for those 11 million illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States for a long time.
I understand Mr. Trump wants to shore up his base and reinforce his bold and tough stance on immigration. And he is right in stating that “there is only one core issue in the immigration debate and it is this: the well-being of the American people.” During the Phoenix speech, he showed compassion to the “Angel Moms” who lost their sons, daughters and spouses to criminal illegals. But he also should have recognized the contributions of legal immigrants who have helped built this nation.
Mr. Trump can enforce our immigration laws and improve border security, while still showing compassion for immigrants who love America and want to be part of this great nation. His core supporters will stay with him because they could never support the open-border/amnesty agenda of Mrs. Clinton.
But Mr. Trump needs to bring in more support from moderate Republicans — and especially Hispanic Republicans in key states like Florida. It was a missed opportunity and there are not many opportunities left to bring them into the fold.
• Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.
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