Polls: Despite Media Onslaught, Americans Support Trump on Immigration and Refugees, Economic Optimism Rises

Posted: Feb 22, 2017 2:15 PM

The Trump administration has released a new slate of executive orders pertaining to immigration. As Katie reviewed yesterday, one represents a second crack at the initial 'travel ban' directive that cleans up some of the original document's glaring flaws. While credible legal scholars believe that several federal courts erred in blocking the policy, the updated version will ease the burden of judicial scrutiny, and mitigate some of the public relations vulnerabilities that fueled nationwide protests at international airports -- although hostile media coverage and large demonstrations never translated into widespread public opposition. Indeed, a new Harvard-Harris nationwide survey taken prior to the new order's release finds that a majority of Americans (53 percent) support the president's original policy.  According to The Hill, "fifty-six percent say they support the specific aspect of Trump’s order that pauses immigration from the seven countries on the terrorism watch list until a new vetting system is in place. Support for that policy goes up to 60 percent when the seven nations are described as 'Muslim majority countries.'" Then there is the order pertaining to domestic immigration enforcement. Former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy examines the specifics and writes that the primary departure from Obama-era practices is that large classes of illegal immigrants are no longer effectively immune to deportation:

Because removal requires an investment of resources, it is still necessary to set priorities. Under Secretary Kelly’s guidance, however, the presumption is now in favor of removing illegal aliens, not giving them protection. Agents have been directed to prioritize enforcement against aliens who have been convicted of any criminal offense — not merely any serious felony. In fact, priorities now include illegal aliens who have merely been charged with a criminal offense, as well as those DHS can show “have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense” — even if there have not been formal charges filed, let alone a conviction. In a fundamental shift from Obama, the Trump position is that simply being an illegal alien is unlawful and serious; thus, any additional indication of outlaw behavior is sufficient to warrant deportation. Consistent with this, agents are further admonished to take action against illegal aliens who have defrauded government agencies or abused programs related to public benefits. This is significant. Illegal aliens who were not guilty of serious felonies were generously regarded as “generally law-abiding” under Obama standards; the fact that they were often guilty of fraudulent conduct — in order to represent themselves as lawfully present and employable, or as eligible for public welfare subsidies — was swept under the rug.

Many on the Left are aghast at the new guidelines, which they cast as a mean-spirited "crackdown" that paves the way for "mass deportations." The legal problem they'll run into is that these directives simply involve the enforcement of existing law (despite some potentially thorny due process concerns); the political problem they'll run into is that enforcing immigration law is popular with American voters. In the same Harvard-Harris poll, a 52 percent majority backs an executive order that hires thousands of new border agents and withholds federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities. Individually, those issues enjoy even more support. Three-in-four Americans say they support "increased border patrol," and four-in-five oppose sanctuary cities. Many local officials in liberal urban enclaves have announced their intention to double-down on 'sanctuary city' policies as a form of resistance to Trump's agenda. In doing so, they've chosen extremely weak political terrain on which to fight. Their uber-lefty constituents may be more supportive, but the country is with Trump on this one.  Also, amid all the hand-wringing over Trump's immigration order (which, it must be noted, is a follow-through on what he explicitly said he would do if elected), scant attention is being paid to the fact that the president appears to be leaving Obama's pro-DREAMer provisions largely in place -- at least for now:

Newly released memos from the Department of Homeland Security leave intact two specific executive orders from President Barack Obama that granted protection from prosecution for so-called Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the US as children, and a second one that included parents of US citizens and legal residents. "None of this affects DACA," the name of the deferred action program, a Homeland Security official told reporters Tuesday. While Obama's second executive order (DAPA) was untouched by the Trump administration, it has been blocked by the courts and is still tied up in legal action. The preservation of the Obama-era policies comes after Trump has attempted to tread carefully on DACA, walking a line between Republicans who want the program cut entirely, and the political and practical impact of eliminating protections for undocumented immigrants.

"DREAMers," who were brought into the country illegally as young children, remain protected from deportation under Trump's order (unless they commit crimes).  Their parents are also specifically classified as 'low priority' under the enforcement guidelines.  These are sensible and practical decisions.  As for broadening of the list of crimes and offenses for which illegal immigrants may now find themselves prioritized for deportation, immigration activists and Democrats may wail and rend their garments, but I'm not convinced this is a political winner, either.  American citizens understand that they're expected to respect and follow the laws of the land, so why should bonus "compassion" be extended to people who are already inside the country in violation of our laws, and who then break additional laws -- even if it's a "low level" crime like welfare or employment fraud?  I suspect a great many American voters can't help but notice that the political Left seems to have seemingly boundless compassion for illegal immigrants and refugees, yet seems to harbor boundless contempt for fellow citizens who don't share their views.  Perhaps this disconnect has helped calcify the toxic dynamic in which majorities of partisans on both sides see the other political party as "the enemy."  I'll leave you with a wake-up call for members of the press and Democratic establishment who keep chortling and plotting about Trump's imminent removal from office or inevitable abandonment of his party's support.  It's of course possible that he'll implode, but he's repeatedly defied those sort of predictions ever since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015.  And although the Left-wing base and their media sympathizers have adopted a posture of frantic resistance and an apocalyptic tone in assessing the state of Trump's America, a fresh Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that Americans are now decidedly more optimistic about the direction of the country than they were prior to the election:

That job approval rating (which has been tough to pin down overall) is nowhere close to glittering, especially for a new president. But it's above-water and relatively stable for a president who has been battered by unprecedented and relentless opposition and hostile coverage since taking office. It's hard to maintain a healthy perspective when you're enclosed inside a thick bubble.

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