Donald Trump, who says he wants to Make America Great, is no Ronald Reagan when it comes to the issue that is driving Trump's campaign, namely, immigration. A new ad that will air all week on cable news networks makes the point effectively. The image of America as "the shining city on a hill" is one of the most memorable phrases from the Reagan years. As the president said in his farewell address to the nation, however, "if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here." But Trump and all too many of his followers want to slam those doors shut, not just to illegal immigrants but to all immigrants.

Trump's immigration plan would halt the issuing of new permanent resident permits and force employers to hire from the pool of unemployed Americans as well as changing the rules on high tech visas so that employers will have to pay above the existing "prevailing wages." His only solution to illegal immigration is to build a higher wall and deport 11.3 million illegal immigrants already here, along with their estimated 4 million U.S. citizen children. He says he can do it in 18-24 monthsnot without raids on homes, workplaces and schools that would trample civil liberties and permanently stain America's reputation not to mention destroying lives.  

American Action Forum released a study earlier this year that shows the cost of such a plan. It would reduce GDP by some $1.6 trillion and cost $400-600 million to implement. 

Reagan understood the importance of a welcoming policy for newcomers. As he said in a 1988 speech: “America represents something universal in the human spirit. I received a letter not long ago from a man who said, ‘You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk.’ But then he added, ‘Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.’” We seem to have lost that optimistic spirit, and not because new immigrants are any different from those in the past. It would be shame for Donald Trump to redefine what makes America great.

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Read a response by Brian M. Fish: "Trump v. Reagan: A Fight Not Worth Having."