A new CNN poll out Friday tests one of the fundamental tenets of the Trump and Bannon world view in a very illuminating way. It finds that large majorities reject the basic idea that undocumented immigrants who have been in this country for a long time – and have not committed serious crimes – should nonetheless be subject to removal.
It’s the latest sign of a larger trend that goes like this: Little by little, the narrative that President Donald Trump and his top adviser, Stephen Bannon, have been telling about what is happening in this country is getting translated into concrete policy specifics. And Americans are recoiling from the results.
The CNN poll tries to pin down public sentiment about Trump’s expanded deportation efforts. It finds that 58 percent of Americans worry that those efforts “will go too far and result in deportation of people who haven’t committed serious crimes,” while only 40 percent worry that those efforts “won’t go far enough and dangerous criminals will remain.”
The poll also finds that a whopping 90 percent favor allowing those who have been working here “for a number of years,” know English, and are willing to pay back taxes to stay and eventually apply for citizenship. Only 9 percent want them deported. And 60 percent say the government should prioritize legalizing those working here illegally over deporting them.
Trump has vastly expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants who are now targets for deportation, enshrining in policy the idea that even longtime residents and low-level offenders are nothing more than lawbreakers who should be subject to enforcement. In the Trump/Bannon narrative, these people remain threats – cultural, demographic, economic, and physical. But these CNN findings suggest broad public rejection of this general notion, and see assimilation as a more appropriate outcome.
This mirrors a recent Quinnipiac poll finding that support for allowing undocumented immigrants to remain is at a new high of 63 percent, even as a plurality thinks Trump’s deportation policies are “too aggressive.” Meanwhile, sizable majorities disapprove of Trump’s planned border wall and ban on refugees and migrants from Muslim-majority countries.
Bannon flatly rejects the very existence of such public sentiments. In the wake of the initial outcry over Trump’s travel ban, Bannon insisted that the “overwhelming majority of Americans” support his “populist nation-state policies,” meaning that a large majority is rooting for Trumpism to succeed. But this is just false, as much of the polling on his immigration policies confirms.
Now this notion will be subjected to another test. The American electorate and political world are now digesting Trump’s budget – which is the most ambitious blueprint yet for realizing the Trump/Bannon “America First” vision, as well as Bannon’s vow to destroy “the administrative state.” That phrase would appear to be shorthand for national regulations and international commitments created by allegedly unaccountable bureaucrats who are supposedly disenfranchising U.S. workers and weakening American sovereignty.
Thus, the Trump budget would boost spending to fund Trump’s border wall and increased deportations. It would deeply cut into the State Department budget in ways that weaken America’s constructive international engagement, to pay for a massive military buildup. It would slash away at the Environmental Protection Agency budget, weakening environmental protections and scrapping funding for international climate change programs and for Obama policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which are essential to meeting our commitments as part of the Paris climate accord. It would cut deeply into funding for scientific and medical research with a recklessness that has alarmed scientists.
And so, we are now seeing what the Trump/Bannon “America First” vision, backed up by the dismantling of the “administrative state,” might really look like in concrete terms. The public reaction to this will be illuminating, too.