It’s March, and Trump is Now in Control of the Nation’s Immigration Agenda

President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night demonstrated yet again that he is now in complete control of America’s immigration agenda. At about the 24 minute mark, he begins to discuss immigration. It was short, sweet and to the point. The language is being widely celebrated as a shift in tone – more conciliatory and more unifying. On immigration policy, he restated steps to date to control borders and the universal principles that will guide any true immigration reform: “What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders? Our obligation is to preserve, protect and defend the citizens of the United States,” said Trump.

This is a consensus statement. It continues Trump’s efforts begun in his campaign to reframe how the nation sees the role of immigration and its purposes. Trump shows empathy for the victims of out of control immigration.

Yet earlier in the day, Trump surrogates – even Trump himself – floated the notion of a possible legislative “compromise” that might include a large-scale legalization program, something that the rumor mill circulated during the presidential campaign.

The key word here is compromise. The implication here is that this is a nascent legislative proposal and a challenge to the Democrats and anti-enforcement Republicans to step up and make a deal.

The chattering class – while ever suspicious – is relieved to see Trump in full presidential mode. Trump, they maintain, has the root of a compromiser that can move to the center. They say this despite the fact that last night’s speech contained no mention of a deal!

Here is yet another example of Trump’s pure genius as a showman and media manipulator. Countering the droning narrative of Trump-inspired division and polarization, the president repositioned to look like the conciliator and dealmaker. In doing so, he caught the Democrats completely off guard while winning broad public consensus that this really was an inspiring speech delivered in a presidential manner.

The Democrats have taken the bait by appearing obstructionist; they stand for total opposition at all costs and are now being trapped by a master manipulator. Egged on by the legacy press, the Democrats have stood firmly against all immigration enforcement to the point of projecting an unyielding unreasonableness. Trump’s proposal for an office to help American’s who’ve lost loved ones because the government won’t control our borders was met with jeers and boos from Democrats.

Politically damaging? You bet. Big mistake. Trump is no fool and he knows how to set up the head fake. But why? What Trump’s end game here?

Trump’s goal is to demonstrate to the country that today’s Democratic Party is unwilling to compromise on border and immigration controls at any level. By floating informal ideas of this kind, he can show the nation that only he can really get things done in D.C. Meantime, he continues to tighten enforcement – dangling out only an unsigned order on the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) as negotiating bait.

Trump – who made a series of very specific immigration policy commitments during the campaign in August — is also setting himself up to arbiter of what constitutes a reasonable legislative compromise as well as the primary architect of what the compromise would entail. With folks like Attorney General Jeff Sessions helping to draft core legislative proposals, it’s not going to look anything like Senator Chuck Schumer’s ill-fated amnesty bill (“the Gang of 8” bill) that merely feigned a commitment to border enforcement and legal reforms.

Trump has now taken the high political ground, armed both with control over the powerful Executive Branch enforcement apparatus and the emotionally-driven messaging that would drive true legislative immigration reform. The Democrats will soon realize that they are painted into a corner and will need to shift to stop the hemorrhaging. And Trump is providing Republicans in Congress with the language and confidence that his administration can be trusted to protect the party politically as it moves forward with his immigration agenda.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

About Author


Dan is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s President after joining the organization in 1982. He has testified more than 50 times before Congress, and been cited in the media as "America's best-known immigration reformer." Dan has appeared on virtually every significant TV and radio news/talk program in America and, in addition to being a contributing editor to, has contributed commentaries to a vast number of print media outlets.


  1. avatar
    Joel Wischkaemper on

    We have entered a time of enormous changes. I hope he is going where we want him to go.. it requires time to find out, and an element of patients.
    I don’t want to push Mr. Trump to hard. He is examining the issues of Immigration as we have, and he is drawing conclusions that are most helpful to the American People. He has the Library of Congress right next to him, and he just has to be asking for reports from his people, and from the library. With Mr. Sessions on-board, we are moving to solid ground on what we can do with existing legislation and the illegal aliens. I hope everyone will join me in gentle course corrections, and gentle criticism. We need lots of ‘whys’ in all the suggestions, and studies that back it up.
    Boy this is nice. Lets smack the critics down, and let Mr. Trump find the possible ways to solutions. If we do.. we win.

  2. avatar

    Immigration enforcement has now replaced immigration reform.
    More unauthorized foreign nationals will be deported than ever before.
    With support and funding from the Congress,
    the rate of deportations might rise to as many as one million per year.

    All foreign nationals found present in the USA without permission
    are now subject to deportation.
    This follows existing law.

    But because there is no way to deport all 11.3 million even in a single year,
    some practical priorities must be established.
    Why not begin with the most dangerous criminals?

  3. avatar

    Like the “Speed of Light”

    Or the “Speed of Trump”….the man is working 7 day weeks and most of the night constantly crafting his agendas.

    He makes the usual politician look like a lazy worker…his motto to Washington DC is “more from less”. The open border lazy Dems hate him… no wonder. Yes, 20-40% of government workers can be eliminated [including Senate and Congress] if they worked as this businessman [thank God he’s not an attorney].

  4. avatar

    Trump is a Liar and cannot be trusted. He said he will give amnesty to illegals on 02/28/2017. Please do not be fooled by Trump. Jeff Sessions has taken office for almost a month. No action on immigration at all. We can not wait anymore. We have a President never put American FIRST for almost 8 years. TRUMP IS A LIAR !

    • avatar

      M W if even Trump recognizes the value of the good unfortunate People … U must be MW = More Waste

    • avatar

      No action at all? Not according to ICE. A lot of their agents are saying they don’t have to worry now that if they arrest an illegal the top brass is going to come down on them like in the previous administration. He’s done a complete 180 in policy from Obama. It’s ridiculous to be criticizing him.