As we should know by now, the immigration issues is not a discrete policy area isolated from others. For many years, opponents of increased immigration on both ends of the political and ideological spectrum have tied it to concerns about unemployment and wage stagnation. In 2014, we saw Republican candidates tie it to national security, with lurid images of ISIS terrorists crossing the Mexican border.I take issue with the reference to "Donald Trump's big innovation" -- Trump isn't that clever or original. If there was an innovation here, it was his decision to link immigration to crime openly and unabashedly in a presidential campaign -- but apart from that, all he's done is talk about undocumented immigrants the way right-wingers have been talking about them for years.
It should also be clear by now that Donald Trump’s big innovation is tying the immigration issue to a growing backlash against supposed tolerance for crime. His original attention grabbing explosion was about Mexico exporting its criminal element to the U.S. He jumped on the Kate Steinle case in San Francisco (the woman killed in an apparent crossfire shooting by a man previously deported five times) instantly and brought it up constantly. His comments suggesting that gangs of “illegals” were behind street protests against police around the country made the ride-the-backlash motive unmistakably clear.
Now Trump is really going medieval on the immigration-crime nexus (h/t MoJo’s Miles Johnson) with an Instagram video wherein Jeb Bush’s famous comment about some people breaking immigration laws to be with their families being an “act of love” voiced over images of three “illegals” charged with murder, and the tag line: “Forget love! It’s time to get tough!”
Remember, the first crime attributed to an undocumented immigrant that was singled out by Trump wasn't the shooting of Kate Steinle -- it was the murder of Jamiel Shaw in 2008, for which an undocumented immigrant named Pedro Espinoza was convicted in 2012. Trump met with Shaw's father in July, after the elder Shaw praised Trump. But Trump didn't just intuitively grasp the potency of this issue on the right -- conservatives have been all over the Shaw story since the immediate aftermath of the murder, and Trump just talked about the issue the way they've always about it. (Scroll down here to see the number of Jamiel Shaw threads there were at Free Republic in '08; also see Michelle Malkin's site.)
And Trump wasn't the only Republican to see this as a vote-getting issue: In February of this years, not long after President Obama announced his executive action on immigration, House Republicans held an oversight hearing at which Shaw's father testified:
“My son, Jamiel Andre Shaw II, was murdered by a DREAMer, a DACA recipient, a child brought to this country by no fault of his own,” Mr. Shaw told Representative Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) while testifying before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee panel.Of course, the murder took place during the last year of the Bush presidency, so Espinoza wasn't a DREAMer or a DACA recipient -- but this was a politically potent soundbite nonetheless, as House Republicans clearly understood.
Conservatives have been describing undocumented immigrants as criminals for years, and were ratcheting up this rhetoric just as Trump was making plans to enter the race. Here's just a sample of Breitbart headlines from the first half of this year:
* January 28, 2015: SHERIFF JOE: MEDIA IGNORING RETURN RATES ON CRIMINAL ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
* January 30, 2015: 1,000 CRIMINAL IMMIGRANTS RELEASED IN 2013 COMMITTED NEW CRIMES
* February 25, 2015: REP. JIM JORDAN SLAMS DHS SEC. FOR DECLINING TO TESTIFY WITH VICTIMS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT CRIME
* March 1, 2015: LEAKED REPORT: DEPORTED ILLEGAL ALIENS FREELY JUMP BORDER TO COMMIT CRIMES
* March 9, 2015: OVER 2,000 CRIMINAL ILLEGAL ALIENS ARRESTED IN NATIONWIDE BUST
* March 24, 2015: JUDICIAL WATCH: 165,900 CRIMINAL ALIENS INTO US POPULATION THROUGH APRIL 2014
* April 14, 2015: ICE DIRECTOR STRUGGLES TO EXPLAIN RELEASE OF THOUSANDS OF CRIMINAL IMMIGRANTS
* April 14, 2015: GOODLATTE: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION RESPONSIBLE FOR RELEASE OF THOUSANDS OF CRIMINAL IMMIGRANTS
Trump's not being original. It's just new that he's talking this way in a presidential race, where you're supposed to be on your best behavior.