Trump's "hardening/softening" rhetoric on his immigration plans is a masterpiece of political vacillation. He makes Hamlet seem resolute. One day he's "bad cop," next day he's "good cop," then the next day after that Trump is "I don't know" cop. As residents of a state that is deeply steeped in the agriculture industry, which nationally draws much of its labor force from Hispanic immigrants, we have reason to be frustrated by Trump's inability to articulate a clear plan about how to deal with undocumented aliens. Last year Pew Research concluded that 26% of this country's farming, fishing and forestry labor force consists of "unauthorized aliens," a number that should sober up a lot Donald Trump's rabid supporters, eagerly anticipating the "deportation force" he promised during the primaries.
Aware of this reality, SD GOP Congresswoman Kristi Noem, a Trump supporter, told a Rapid City crowd last week that "we're a country of immigrants." She added that we have to consider "how important those workers are to the agriculture business." The American Farm Bureau Federation agrees unequivocally, noting that foreign farm workers do not take jobs from Americans, but actually create American jobs (by a ratio of 1;3) when totting up the numbers of jobs in value-added industries, marketing, retailing and so on. The AFBF supports "earned legal status for experienced, but unauthorized, agricultural workers." Considering that about half the two million crop workers in the United States (per the Dept. of Agriculture) are unauthorized workers, the "overwhelming majority" coming from Mexico, the idea of systematically rounding up these folks and deporting them is a non-starter. The resulting chaos in agricultural production would be monumental. The Farm Bureau's call for "earned legal status" certainly leaves room for interpretation as to how that status can be earned, but I read it as a reasonable approach to creating a pathway for documentation or citizenship while still residing in the United States and continuing to do the ultra-important work of crop production. Realistically, there doesn't seem to be a more practical way.
Yet Trump, in his Phoenix tirade last week, stated unequivocally, that "anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation." A year ago, while coalescing his enthusiastic following, he told NBC that he was immovable on this: "We will keep families together, but they have to go" he said. "They have to go . . . we will work with them, but they have to go, Chuck. We either have a country or we don't have a country." Now that reality has intruded, the back-off from that hard-line position has exposed Trump as being either ignorant or a liar--or just a shameless political showman. Yesterday a once-great New York Mayor who has devolved into a political sock-puppet, Rudy Giuliani, told CNN that Trump no longer wants "mass deportations."
In other words, Rudy confirmed that Donald Trump can not be trusted. As common a failing as that is among the political class, in this case it makes the leap from rhetoric to reality. Families are in limbo and farmers are left wondering about the status of their labor force.