Right-wingers rage over Trump's new "de facto amnesty" promise

Trump's moderate-courting plan to adopt a Hillary Clinton immigration policy is infuriating his far-right base

Published June 21, 2024 4:45PM (EDT)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s newest policy endorsement — granting green cards to college grads from abroad — is drawing fierce backlash from the anti-immigrant Republicans that propelled him to the presidency.

The departure from Trump’s immigration policy as we've known it was discussed on the “All-In” podcast, where he promised to grant work authorizing papers to international graduates.

“What I will do is: you graduate from a college, I think you should get, automatically as part of your diploma, a green card to be able to stay in this country,” Trump said. “Anybody who graduates from a college, you go in there for two years or four years, if you graduate, or if you get a doctorate degree from a college, you should be able to stay in this country.”

The eagle-eyed may notice similarities between Trump’s words and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign promise to “staple” green cards to diplomas, one which Trump allies bashed at the time.

Evergreen anti-immigration hard-liners slammed Trump for his departure from his typical “America First” rhetoric, which won him his 2016 nomination, then campaigning on the construction of a border wall and the end of the Obama-era DACA, which granted some rights to lifelong U.S. residents without citizenship. 

Conservative columnist Pedro Gonzalez blasted the plan as a “de facto amnesty.”

“It’s completely unacceptable,” Gonzales wrote on X, adding that the plan would “undermine employment opportunities for American college grads who took the advice to work hard and go to school.” 

“Anyone who claims to be an immigration restrictionist and doesn’t call this out is a fraud. This is a policy that Biden himself could have come up with,” Gonzales said.

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Some expressed a desire for Trump to bring white supremacist and anti-immigrant Stephen Miller back into the advisory fold, with one X user joking that he “need[s] Stephen Miller to tattoo the actual immigration policy on the back of Trump’s hand.”

Other critics noted the potential impacts on universities, like immigration restriction activist Jeremy Beck, who told the Washington Post that the plan would “turn colleges into visa mills.”

The Trump campaign made sure to roll back his apparent endorsement of the idea in part, with campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt outlining a screening process to weed out “communists, radical Islamists, Hamas supporters, [and] America haters.”

Trump previously promised to deport student demonstrators who expressed concern over Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

Far-right critics say the move would give immigrants jobs that U.S. citizens could use, a claim similar to one Trump himself spouted last week in Michigan while speaking in a Detroit church. 

“They’re invading your jobs,” he said of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Immigration advocates may be skeptical of Trump’s claim, and they wouldn’t be alone. Far-right social media users chimed in with their own doubts on his follow-through.

“Trump is (hopefully) misleading us with the green card stuff, to deflate the issue. I can’t see him actually going through with that proposal,” an X user wrote.

The plan comes alongside the ex-president’s proposal to launch a mass deportation of more than 10 million people, while his opponent, President Joe Biden, recently announced a clearer pathway for U.S. citizenship for the spouses of citizens.

By Griffin Eckstein

Griffin Eckstein is a News Fellow at Salon. He is a student journalist at New York University, having previously written for the independent student paper Washington Square News, the New York Post, and Morning Brew.

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Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Immigration