CREDIT: The Bridge Project
Sometimes all it takes to change an opponent’s mind is to put a face on the issue and that’s just what immigration advocates did when they met with multimillionaire Donald Trump last week to talk about immigration reform. After some undocumented activists told him their stories, the man who just a few weeks ago said the the Senate immigration bill “could be a death wish” for Republicans, softened his stance, reportedly telling the immigrants “you’ve convinced me,” according to NBC Latino last week.
Trump, who has a history of making extravagant claims like advocating an European-only immigration approach, reached his conclusion only after a group of young, undocumented activists respectfully pressed him to reconsider his opposition to immigration reform. They told Trump that a solution was necessary for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in America. Trump responded that they had convinced him, according to one of the activists, Jose Machado.
The meeting was part of a seven-state initiative by the pro-immigration reform group The Bridge Project, which aims to bring bipartisan support for immigration reform. Some of the activists are DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country by their parents as young children.
The face-to-face dialogue makes Trump the latest vocal conservative to be swayed by compassion on immigration. Stephen Sandstrom, a former Utah legislature member who lobbied hard for an anti-immigrant ‘show me your papers‘ law, was similarly swayed by compassion after he had a conversation with an undocumented immigrant.
Trump told a crowd two weeks earlier in Iowa that the Senate immigration bill “could be a death wish” for the Republican party. At the time he said, “I will say this, you have to form a very very strong barrier from people just flowing in like candy. It’s no good, you can’t have it. We either have a country, or we don’t have a country.”
Earlier in 2013, Trump warned that immigration reform would create 11 million Democratic voters. Yet in the same breath, he lamented not giving legal status to a specific group of bright European individuals who “went to Harvard, top of their class, went to the Wharton School of finance, great, great students… take all of our knowledge, and they can’t work in this country. We throw them out. We educate them, we make them really good…how stupid is that?” But undocumented individuals who came to the United States from countries other than Europe likewise went to Harvard and were top of their class.
While Trump told the immigrants they “convinced” him, it’s unclear whether that means he’s changed his policy opinion or reversed course on his other, less reform-friendly statements.