Culture Wars/Current Controversies

A Rightwing Multiculturalist approach to Immigration

By Robert Stark

Trump’s signature campaign issue was immigration and his election signified a rejection of the Reagan/Bush/McCain pro-immigration narrative. “Make America Great Again” had implicitly White demographic undertones of “make America White again,” Trump engaged in race baiting, such as his remark that Mexico was not sending their best, and Trump’s so called “Muslim Ban,” was an implicit move away from the colorblind narrative on immigration. Overall Trump was more restrictive on immigration than other recent presidents on certain policies, such as reducing refugee intake. Trump initially supported the Raise Act, which would have reduced legal immigration but also virtue signaled in support of legal immigration and later pushed for a merit based immigration proposal, crafted by Jared Kushner, that would have kept overall numbers high and lacked any geographic quotas. Despite Trump not significantly changing legal immigration policy, legal immigration modestly declined under Trump’s presidency. Though Trump actually deported less illegal immigrants than Obama, and many ardent restrictionists, such as Ann Coulter, were greatly disappointed with Trump on immigration. Trump squandered many opportunities to test the Overton Window on the national question and recently Trump’s justices voted down Trump’s remain in Mexico border policy.

Also the reaction to Trump pushed the Overton Window further left on immigration, at least in the short-term. Trump served as a boogeyman that energized the Great Awokening, that was already in place under Obama. Americans are also now more politically balkanized on immigration, with Republicans becoming much more anti-immigration and Democrats more liberal on immigration. As recently as the Bush era, there were still immigration restrictionist Democrats and open borders Republicans. However, anti-immigration sentiment has spiked under Biden with even a modest increase amongst Democrats.

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