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Trump flirting with Sandoval, Reid’s path on illegal immigration

Donald Trump wasn’t the first candidate with carefully coiffured hair to campaign in Nevada pushing a hard line on illegal immigration.

He wasn’t even the first politician with a habit of putting his foot in his mouth to ask Nevadans for their support while decrying privileges given to illegal immigrants, including anchor babies.

Guess which two prominent Nevada politicians made the following statements?

Politician A’s campaign flier: “End Illegal Immigration. [Politician A] opposes any plan that encourages or excuses illegal immigration, [sic] and supports the Arizona immigration law. From amnesty to driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, [Politician A] says not now, not ever.”

Politician B: “If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship.”

Politician A is Gov. Brian Sandoval. Politician B is now-retired Sen. Harry Reid.

Sandoval’s commitment to “End Illegal Immigration” came in the midst of a heated Republican primary for governor in 2010. Sandoval claimed he supported an Arizona law that required police officers to ask for immigration paperwork if the officer suspected someone was an illegal immigrant on a factor other than race.

Instead, just three years after these campaign promises, Sandoval signed a bill creating driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, called driver’s authorization cards. He’s also called for comprehensive immigration reform, a politically correct way of describing amnesty. And there’s a chance he‘ll sign a bill making Nevada a “sanctuary state” if it passes the Legislature, although his potential desire to return to the federal bench could influence that decision.


Reid also did a 180. In 1999, he said it was a mistake to introduce a bill in 1993 aimed at not granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. Twenty years later, Reid was one of illegal immigrants’ strongest legislative allies.

Now, just two months into his presidency, President “Big, Beautiful Wall” Trump is considering a similar flip-flop. Trump has yet to end President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Even on the campaign trail, Trump expressed sympathy for illegal immigrants brought to America as children.

Then, last Tuesday, he floated the idea of giving illegal immigrants brought here as children a path to citizenship and giving legal status to those without a criminal record who have a job. Amid an outcry from his supporters, the next day his administration walked it back, claiming it was “misdirection.” In a traditional administration, you’d call it a trial balloon. It might have just been stream-of-consciousness rambling from someone whose Twitter feed causes international incidents.

His ability to neuter the most vocal opposition — just like Sandoval did with some Nevada Republicans on taxes two years ago — his love of making deals and his fluid policy positions have always made it possible that Trump signs a mass amnesty bill.

Trump is flirting with the same path Sandoval and Reid have taken on illegal immigration.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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