Last night, Fox Business News hosted the fourth Republican primary debate, held in Milwaukee, the largest city in the perceived 2016 swing state of Wisconsin. Eight candidates took to the stage, a departure from the double-digit podium presences seen in the first three exchanges. With current polling defying much of the conventional electoral wisdom, the candidates continue to seek to set themselves apart from one another.
Donald Trump's June 16, 2015 campaign kickoff speech created a storm of publicity - and controversy - as he denigrated Mexican immigrants, and touted his plan to forcibly remove 11+ million undocumented residents, and to wall off the entire southern border, while getting Mexico to foot the bill. Nearly five months after that initial episode, Trump's immigration-related rhetoric has become slightly less inflammatory, though he continues to be the party's current anti-immigration-reform torch bearer. As with other policy areas, Trump's immigration "plan" is long on promise, and short on details. To date, he has not explained the logistical feasibility of rounding up an estimated 11 million uncodumented residents. Nor has he addressed directly how to fund a mass deportation/removal effort. No less a friend of business than Forbes magazine has characterized Trump's plan as "prohibitively expensive", citing a 2015 study by the American Action Forum which estimates the cost of deporting 11+ million people at $400-$600 billion, and predicts that eliminating those folks' contributions to the U.S. economy would shrink it by about 6% over 20 years, resulting in an economic loss of approximately $1.6 trillion [yes, $1,600,000,000,000.00]. Click here to see the full article.
During last night's debate, Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz squared off successively about immigration, pitting themselves against former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Ohio Governor John Kasich. Trump and Cruz remain unabashedly anti-immigration, while Bush and Kasich approach the issue more moderately and pragmatically. Kasich put the issue in human terms, and called on his party to do better: "Think about the families; think about the children. Come on, folks, we know you can't pick them up and ship them across the border. It's a silly argument. It's not an adult argument." For his part, Bush also characterized the issue in terms of political necessity, noting that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign was "doing high-fives" while the GOP showcases ever harsher immigration views. Two other frontrunners, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Florida Senator Marco Rubio were not called upon to address the issue directly.
With about 90 days remaining until the New Hampshire primary, we will continue to monitor not only the candidates' stated immigration positions, but also the apparent reaction to those positions among the electorate. While the practical effects of today's immigration discourse will not be felt before 2017, the shaping of the national discussion will bear directly upon the options available to our business and individual clients as they look at their futures through the prism of immigration.