From a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to a total ban on Muslims entering the country, tough talk on immigration was a central component of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign. How much of that was just talk, however, remains to be seen.
In the latest installment of our 2017 predictions series, Eduardo Siqueira, associate professor in the College of Public and Community Service at UMass Boston, shares his thoughts on which of Trump’s immigration proposals will likely become reality, and what the effects will be.
1) Another brick in the wall? Yes, but Mexico won’t be paying for it.
A border fence separating San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico (photo courtesy of V.T. Polywoda via Flickr.com)
A wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to stem the flow of illegal immigrants was a campaign promise that energized a large portion of Trump’s base. But as it turns out, there’s already a barrier along the border in the form of walls and fences, and it hasn’t been particularly effective.
“This was a clear myth,” Siqueira said. “The so-called wall already exists across hundreds of miles of the U.S- Mexico border. Trump may increase the length of the wall, but he clearly deceived the American people with his repeated propaganda on immigration.”
Siqueira said Trump will likely add to the current wall while doing much less than was touted on the campaign trail.
“I do think that this is one of Trump's promises that is easy to implement, because all he has to do is expand the wall a little bit and make it sound like he shut down the U.S.-Mexico border,” Siqueira said. “So, my guess is that he will try to capitalize on it, though he will do much less about it than promised.”
As for who will pay for this “Great Wall?” Despite recent Trump tweets, Siqueira said the U.S. will be picking up the tab.
“It is highly unlikely that Mexico will pay for the wall,” Siqueira said. “Trump keeps saying all kinds of stuff that will never come to pass.”
2) A ban on Muslim immigrants is unlikely.
The Statue of Liberty. (photo courtesy of Jürgen Stemper // Bloemche via Flickr.com)
Trump has proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, citing an effort to curb terrorism, but Siqueira said this proposal isn’t likely to overcome significant legal and political hurdles.
“I think that Trump may try to implement his proposal to shut down Muslims entering the U.S., but it will be very difficult to do, due to constitutional challenges as well as political backlash from Muslim countries that are close allies to the U.S., such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and Democrats,” he said. “There is also opposition to this idea in some less extreme segments of the Republican party.”
Regardless of which proposals Trump actually implements, Siqueira said the effects have already been felt among Muslims and other minorities.
“I think that the anti-Muslim rhetoric is already creating fear in Muslim communities,” Siqueira said. “If the Trump administration issues these policies, the relations with Muslim and immigrant communities will change from bad to worse. I think that there will be strong resistance in several locations. I would not rule out a climate of confrontation and unrest all over the country.”
3) Most of Trump’s tough talk on immigration will prove to be just talk.
Donald Trump speaking at the Marriott Marquis NYC in September 2016. (photo courtesy of Michael Vadon via Flickr.com)
Siqueira said that Trump’s stance on immigration served mainly to drum up support, and his approach will likely soften once he takes office.
“This was a useful trope to scapegoat immigrants as the causes of the economic and social losses perceived by fractions of working class and middle class whites,” he said. “For decades, low-income white working class Americans have complained about their worsening living conditions and lack of hope for a better future. Candidate Trump used this hard line tactic, which has been widely used by conservative U.S. politicians on the right, to divide the people of the U.S into ‘white’ and ‘the others.’ I am not sure that President Trump will continue to take such a hard line on immigration as a president, though it worked well for him as a candidate.”
4) While Trump’s stance may soften, anti-immigrant sentiment among his supporters will not.
“The main immigrant-related issue that we must be aware of is Trump supporters’ overt anti-immigrant and bold xenophobic acts of physical and moral aggression already happening all over the country,” Siqueira said. “This is likely to continue for a while until a strong movement for immigrant rights emerges again to stop them.”
Read more UMass expert predictions.