Friday editorial: Trumps walls out moderate Republicans

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump unveils his 10-point plan to crack down on illegal immigration during speech at the Phoenix Convention Center on August 31, 2016. He issued a stern warning to people intent on sneaking into the United States, saying those who enter illegally would never obtain legal status. | David Cruz/AFP/Getty Images

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Shortly after meeting in private with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Wednesday, Donald Trump told reporters they did not discuss who would pay for a border wall.

In a tweet later, President Nieto said that simply was not true.

“At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump,” he wrote, “I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”

Anybody want to bet on who’s lying here?

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But if Trump was telling falsehoods again, which is where we’d put our money, maybe it’s just as well. Because in a big policy speech in Arizona later in the day, Trump said so much more irresponsible stuff about immigration that you just hope he doesn’t believe a word of it, not so long as he stands a chance of being elected president of the United States.

Anybody who thought Trump might soften his stance on immigration this week, in a late-game appeal to voters beyond his white conservative base, thought wrong. Trump again called for building that wall — “a great wall” — and said Mexico would pay for it, and the 11 million undocumented people now living in the United States would not be offered a chance at citizenship, even if they came to this country as very small children years ago.

Trump did not say he would create a massive deportation force and round up and throw out every undocumented person immediately, as he has promised to do in the past, but he offered them no hope in a speech full of harsh rhetoric. They would continue to live in the shadows. There would be “no amnesty.” They could be deported at any time.

“No one,” Trump said, “will be immune.”

As a matter of politics, it’s hard to see what Trump hoped to accomplish here. Polls regularly show that well over 70 percent of Americans favor setting up a system for undocumented immigrants to become legal residents. Trump might have the zenophobe vote locked up, but this latest red-meat pandering to his base won’t broaden his appeal one bit. Most Americans, we sense, are getting tired of blowhards who want to divide us.

As a matter of compassion or empathy, two traits Trump shows no sign of possessing, his speech also was a bust.

Railing in his usual way against illegal immigration from south of the border and legal immigration from anywhere “terrorists” — read Muslims — might reside, Trump did his best to stoke unwarranted fears. A Washington Post analysis of the speech offers a few examples:

Trump cited a 2011 federal report to the effect that “illegal immigrants and other non-citizens” had “around 25,000 homicide arrests.” He failed to note that this was a rough estimate, covering four years, and that the statistic included crimes by 15 million entirely legal immigrants.

He said Hillary Clinton wants to provide Social Security and Medicare to undocumented immigrants, which she does not and could not — unless they became citizens.

He said Clinton wants to bring 620,000 new refugees from Syria to our nation “over a short period of time.” But Clinton has proposed an increase of only 55,000 — and for just one year.

He accused the Obama administration of “deadly, and it is deadly, non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets, walk around, do whatever they want to do, crime all over the place.” How’s that for fear mongering? The reality is that Obama has deported more people than any president before him.

For a long time, Trump called for banning Muslims from entering the United States, though many are desperate people fleeing the likes of ISIS, until our vetting procedures can be improved, though there is no evidence our current vetting procedures are inadequate. He would favors “patrols” of heavily Muslim neighborhoods. It was a shabby attack on an entire religion.

Now, in his Arizona speech, Trump called instead for the creation of “a list of regions and countries” from which immigration must be suspended. That, to us, sounds like the same old Muslim bashing in a new guise. You can bet he’s not talking about Sweden.

Even if Trump loses on Nov. 8, as all polls predict he will, it’s a little worrisome to consider his lasting impact on our nation. Will he have succeeded in dividing us irreparably? Or will we finally have had our fill of paranoia, intolerance and loathing?

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