El Donaldo's trump card on immigration

Campaign 2016 Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally July 28, 2016, in Davenport, Iowa.

THE EFFORTS of the new salvage team brought aboard are already being felt on the S.S. Trump, which is listing 15 degrees.

Campaign chairman Paul Manafort was forced to walk the plank, and was replaced with a yin and yang duet - positive vs. negative, good cop vs. bad cop.

The chief executive ( bad cop) is Steve Bannon, a bare-knuckled brawler from the far-right Breitbart News operation, while senior adviser and pollster Kellyanne Conway (good cop) takes the title of campaign manager.

On consecutive nights on the Fox News show hosted by groveler-in-chief Sean Hannity, Trump showed a little grace, which must be Conway's influence.

A year ago, Trump fueled his candidacy by zeroing in on illegal immigration, which was a simmering issue in large swaths of the country. His heavy-handed rhetoric played well for some, but his bombast turned off many independents and understandably infuriated Hispanics.

Trump is favored by about 20 percent of Hispanics in an average of polls reported by Politico, which is higher than I would have guessed. There is time for him to drive that number higher than the 27 percent that went to Mitt Romney. It won't be easy, not even if he starts calling himself El Donaldo. But it can be done.

Democrats are loathe to criticize illegal immigration because they are enablers at heart, and they practice identity politics. When they featured "undocumented" speakers at their convention, that was better than giving them a back rub.

But on Sanctuary Cities, where the cops don't turn over undocumented people to immigration authorities, such as the one headed by enabler-in-chief Jim Kenney, Democrats are on the wrong side.

Who says - racist, xenophobic me?

No. In a 2015 poll, Rasmussen Reports found Americans oppose Sanctuary Cities by 2-1.

That's a huge number and good for Trump.

What's bad for Trump is the even larger 70 percent, according to Pew Research, who do not want the mass deportation that had been his calling card.

The vast majority of Americans understand a roundup of more than 11 million people won't happen and shouldn't. That's beginning to dawn on Trump, too.

That's why, in front of a friendly audience in Austin, when Trump talked about longtime illegal residents who had no run-ins with the law, he said, "There certainly can be a softening, because we're not looking to hurt people."

That contradicts his earlier round-them-up-and-throw-them-out statements, but Trump operates in a political world that defies gravity.

Most of his supporters don't care if he contradicts himself as long as he bellows at the establishment, just as Hillary Clinton's hard core doesn't give a hoot about emails and Benghazi.

As Trump "softens," he can devise a solution a majority of Americans want, including punishment for the illegals among us. He must include punishment to keep his fringe supporters from screaming "amnesty," which they may do anyway.

What loss he sustains among the dead-enders might be more than offset by what he gains among independents and Hispanics support. It's worth a shot and he has already put his toe in the pool.

Here's what he could do:

He could call for a statute of limitations, as exists for many civil and criminal offenses, to apply to the undocumented. If ICE doesn't get you in five years, deportation is off the table.

He could allow those who have committed no crime other than being here illegally to come forward. They would register, pay any penalties, fines or taxes, and learn English before they get documented.

He could continue to promise to deport criminals such as drug lords and gangbangers. That would be a blessing to those terrorized by them.

If the noncriminal illegal immigrants meet the requirements, they get legal status. They do not get citizenship. Trump restated that even as he slowly backed away from mass deportation.

Their children, born here, are citizens, and children brought here, the so-called Dreamers, would be eligible for citizenship.

Why deny these long-term "immigrants" citizenship?

There should be actual punishment for illegal behavior. I believe American citizenship is a privilege and being denied it is appropriate punishment.

People who disrespected our law should get no advantage over those who waited in line, filled out the papers, and did the right thing.

Finally, Trump must announce that starting on the day of his inauguration, he will direct ICE to go after employers who hire those here illegally.

Dry up the jobs that act as a magnet and illegal immigration will become a trickle.

El Donaldo won't even need to build a wall, as much as he seems to yearn for it.

stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky

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