- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2015

Donald Trump’s immigration plan has won widespread backing from conservatives in the hours since he announced it, sparked stern condemnation from immigrant-rights activists — and instantly reshaped a policy debate that’s raged for more than a decade.

Mr. Trump’s ideas include ending birthright citizenship, building more border fencing, docking illegal immigrant Mexicans’ remittances back home to pay for it, tripling the number of deportation officers, and requiring all illegal immigrants to go home and apply from there if they want to earn legal status.

“It’s a very, very positive document — it’s bold, it’s strong, it’s broad,” Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, said Monday on CNN’s “New Day.” “It covers most of the things that you’d want to cover. I’d like to plug a couple more things in there, but with regard to birthright citizenship, for example, it has constitutional underpinnings, yes. But the way you start that is you pass the legislation that puts an end to birthright citizenship. I happen to be the author of that legislation.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who led opposition to the 2013 Senate immigration bill, also approved of Mr. Trump’s ideas, calling them “exactly the plan America needs.”

The immigration plan was Mr. Trump’s first foray into policy in this campaign, and it drew fierce rejections from immigrant-rights advocates, Democrats and liberal activists. One progressive publication called his effort to end automatic citizenship for anyone born in the U.S., including children of illegal immigrants, “racist.”

Frank Sharry, executive director at America’s Voice, a leading advocacy group for immigrants, said requiring illegal immigrants to go home before applying to return is “nothing less than the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants and their millions of U.S. citizen children.”

Mr. Sharry said he’s convinced he and allied groups can stop Mr. Trump’s plans from becoming law, but he said the outline itself has taken the national immigration debate to a new depth.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. This rhetoric and radicalism is something new, something dangerous, something that deserves to be aggressively countered by people who believe in an America that is permanently evolving in order to become a more perfect union,” Mr. Sharry said.

For weeks, Mr. Trump had been prodded about how he would get Mexico to pay for his plan to extend fencing across more of the U.S.-Mexico border.

His plan laid out several ideas, including trying to withhold some of the money Mexican illegal immigrants make in the U.S. and send back home — known as remittances. He also proposed raising fees charged to issue visas to Mexican government officials and business owners.

Mr. Trump also called for rewriting the immigration system so that American workers’ needs were prioritized.

Like so much of the rest of the campaign, his plan drove the conversation among the rest of the GOP field.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who earlier this year backed away from supporting a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, seemed to embrace Mr. Trump’s plans.

“I haven’t looked at all the details of his but the things I’ve heard are very similar to the things I’ve mentioned,” Mr. Walker said on Fox News.

But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaking on CNN, dismissed Mr. Trump’s plans, saying he doubts the businessman will be able to force Mexico to pay for the wall.

“This is not negotiation of a real estate deal,” Mr. Christie said. “This is international diplomacy, and it’s different.”

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