Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Immigration Policy Remains a Key Topic in U.S. Presidential Contest

Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Immigration Policy Remains a Key Topic in U.S. Presidential Contest

Article excerpt

Immigration remains an important point of debate in the US presidential race, but the political parties are putting a different emphasis on their proposals. Republican candidate Donald Trump continues to put a major focus on expanding and strengthening the existing wall along the US-Mexican border, while his Democratic counterpart, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has proposed an "urgent" fix to the immigration system to provide a path for undocumented immigrants to legalize their status.

Throughout the campaign, Trump had called for the mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, and often repeated his statement referring to undocumented Mexican immigrants as "rapists, drug traffickers, and criminals." However, during a television interview in late August, Trump backed down from his hard line, saying he was open to "softening" his plan to deport all undocumented immigrants, which are estimated at more than 11 million. He also noted that "some undocumented immigrants are great people."

Trump insists on border wall

A centerpiece of Trump's immigration stance, however, remains his proposal to expand and strengthen the wall separating the US and Mexico. This position was reflected in the Republican Party platform, endorsed at the party's convention in July.

"We support building a wall along our southern border and protecting all ports of entry," reads the text of the Republican Party platform. "The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic." This policy represents a departure from the statement in the Republican Party's 2012 platform, which advocated for completion of the double-layered fencing mandated along certain sections of the border under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

The Democratic Party's 2016 platform makes no mention of a wall in its sections on immigration and security, instead endorsing a path to citizenship for law-abiding, unauthorized immigrants.

The wall proposal runs counter to sentiment in the US. According to a poll conducted the Pew Research Center in March 2016, 59% of respondents said they oppose the wall project, compared with 38% who said they support the plan. However, the poll, conducted among 2,254 US adults, also reflected partisan preferences. Respondents who identified themselves with the Republican Party supported the project by an overwhelming 67%.

In contrast, 86% of the respondents who identified themselves as Democrats opposed the wall.

Still, Trump views the wall as a priority, even with the apparent softening of his hardline stance in other areas of immigration policy. "We're going to build the wall, folks. That wall will go up so fast your head will spin," he said at rally in Akron, Ohio, in late August.

While Trump remains steadfast on his proposal to expand the border wall, he has not provided any new insights or specifics on the uncertainties of his proposal. During a television interview in February, Trump said the US would need to construct the wall on 1,000 miles of the border because natural barriers would act as deterrents in other border areas.

At that time, he put the cost of construction and expansion of the wall at only US$8 billion. Trump revised his estimate a few weeks later, suggesting that the cost could rise to between US$10 billion and US$12 billion, but did not provide a reason why he increased his estimate. Some observers believe Trump is underestimating the cost of the project, which could rise to as high as US$25 billion, according to an estimate from The Washington Post.

Trump has pledged to force Mexico to pay for the wall, suggesting in a two-page memo that he would only ask Mexico for a "one-time payment" of US$5 billion to US$10 billion. If the country did not pay the fee, he said, he would use economic threats against Mexico, including an embargo on remittances from Mexican expatriates, which approached US$25 billion in 2015 (SourceMex, May 11, 2016). …

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