Jan 18 2018

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Messaging and Immigration

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Immigration and Reform Are Not Mutually Exclusive…

The Trump White House is in a “no win” situation of its own making.

In a meeting last week with a bipartisan congressional delegation, the President apparently grew testy about an immigration lottery system that promotes immigration from a variety of developing countries. According to attendees, POTUS referred to those places as “sh-thole countries.”

Please, spare me the denials.

After the meeting, just as the cable news talking heads were getting a full head of indignant steam, Trump was checking in with political supporters to see how the comment was playing with the Base, and was, reportedly, quite satisfied. Now, a week later, the “sh-thole countries” comment has taken on a life of its own, fueling condemnation from developed countries, and indignation from developing nations, whose territory may fall in Trump’s basket.

Despite the plethora of other, compelling news, neither the Democrats nor the media will let go of this story, as it fuels a narrative that provides rhetorical leverage for a calculated political end – the legalization of nearly one million “Dreamers,” without substantial concession to the GOP immigration reform agenda.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer summed up the Left’s position neatly when speaking on a late night talk show. “Okay, actions speak louder than words, if you want to begin, just begin that long road back to proving you’re not a racist, you’re not bigoted, support the bipartisan compromise that three Republicans and three Democrats have put on the floor — everyone gave — and get the DREAMers safety here in America. That’s what he should do.”

The Democrat narrative works so effectively because POTUS’ comment was both explosive and maddeningly vague. It created a blank canvas for outrage and grievance upon which the Left could deploy its most inflammatory charge – racism. This was made easier by Trump’s, apparent, favorable reference to immigration from Norway.  While a colorblind analysis of skills-based immigration from developed and developing countries would be, generically, no contest, that is lost in the current debate.

The Administration’s position is made substantially worse by its tactical and improvised response, which focuses on the “did he, or didn’t he” aspect.  At this point, it doesn’t matter.”Sh-thole countries” has been baked into the conversation. The first rule of crisis communications is, when in a ditch, stop digging.  If you cannot change the facts, change the subject. Stop defending the indefensible, and create a narrative of what POTUS meant to say.

You build your narrative around this:

The President does not support immigration for the sake of immigration”


  1. We Are a Nation of Immigrants:   our nation was founded by people who fled persecution and tyranny. Over our history, the American nation has been enriched by the energy, creativity and dedication of millions who sought a better life in America. Today, no other nation is more generous and welcoming of immigrants than the United States. We will remain that beacon of hope in the world.
  2. We Are a Nation of Citizens: while we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. The Constitution provides Congress with unrestricted power to regulate immigration, and it has done so during different eras in our history. The great American story that has resulted, is based in the assimilation of waves of immigrants into a union of citizens. To that end, legal immigration has been a powerful pillar in American growth and prosperity.
  3. We Are a Great Nation With Great Challenges:  40 million of our fellow citizens live in poverty. Millions of others have been displaced as the nature of the global economy has changed. Our infrastructure is dated and failing, impacting our economic growth and future prosperity. Our military is equipped with legacy weapons, jeopardizing our national security. American education is no longer a world leader, restricting the potential for our children in a more competitive world. Our entitlement programs are bankrupting the nation, as our national debt climbs beyond 100% of GDP. As citizens, we must set priorities.
  4. Unrestricted Immigration is Not a Right:  the first obligation of the US government is to its citizens. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty, to give us those, yearning to be free, is an aspirational poem, not a constitutional amendment. Our compassion and generosity as a nation is not measured by the greatest number of people allowed to resettle in America.
  5. Immigration Reform is Not Inconsistent With Immigration:  reform does not end immigration, it simply prioritizes it. Reform based on skills is not biased, it is color blind. While we are a nation of immigrants, immigration for immigration’s sake is not our national purpose. As a sovereign nation we get to choose upon whom we bestow the greatest advantage we have to give – American citizenship.  A transparent and effective immigration system will channel the potential of new immigrants, while protecting the value of that citizenship Americans today, and for future generations.

Get out of the hole, get on message, and fight.

There is a big chunk of real estate, right in the middle, that POTUS could own, if only the Administration could articulate it.





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