Over Memorial Day weekend, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos interviewed the Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, who said he is working with the Trump administration on a proposal to legalize illegal aliens.
Rodriguez is one of the few Hispanic leaders to respectfully meet with President Trump.
Below is a translated transcript in which Ramos and Rodriguez discuss who would benefit from this proposed amnesty, how the process would function, and the likelihood that the president would approve such measures.
Ramos: What seems like huge news is, if not an announcement, at least the intention to explore, on the part of President Trump's White House and his advisers, a possible legalization — not citizenship but legalization. What did they tell you?
Rodriguez: Jorge, we have presented a proposal. And I think they have all the pressure, even from the most conservative Republicans — the Freedom Caucus. Because he says all that we know ... protect the border, deport those who are involved in criminality. ... But he says the rest of the people, the good people, who are working ...
Ramos: The majority.
Rodriguez: ... the majority, 98.9 percent, legalize them — without the guarantee of citizenship.
Ramos: So we are talking about, there are 11 million undocumented people, legalizing most of them — those who do not have a criminal record.
Rodriguez: Yes, they're the majority.
Ramos: Very well, but not give them citizenship.
Rodriguez: Not giving citizenship. There is no guarantee. And one says, "But what are you doing?" If they want to be citizens they have to return to their country of origin and start the process going to the back of the line. [They have to] start paying for their expenses and start the process and they can come back here to work. And return [home] for the process.
Ramos: If they want to be citizens?
Rodriguez: If they want to be citizens.
Ramos: But can we believe Trump? Donald Trump, during the campaign, said that he wanted to deport the 11 million people that are undocumented.
Rodriguez: Correct. He changed his mind, because now he is not deporting the 11 million. In other words, he doesn't want a deportation team looking for people ...
Ramos: So he has deported [people], but not as many as Barack Obama.
Rodriguez: That's correct.
Ramos: Very well. But can we believe Donald Trump on this intention to legalize 11 million, or the majority of 11 million?
Rodriguez: It is a conversation that is being developed. I can't speak for the president, but it is a conversation that is growing at this moment with the White House and Republican leaders.
Ramos: It would be a great surprise.
Rodriguez: They have responded to me. They have told me, "But reverend," that's how they tell me, "Your people, how will they react?" And I tell them the priority is to please not touch our families, to not deport them. And we are not declaring that they will never be citizens. If they want to be citizens they have to return to their country of origin. But also, in the proposal I have included, "but the children are citizens." These children do not have to return. They should not return. Why do they have to pay for the sins of their parents?
Ramos: We are talking about the Dreamers?
Rodriguez: Yes. They do not have to pay for what their parents did. They are citizens.
As Ramos remarks, it would be a great surprise if the Trump administration were to announce such an amnesty. It would run counter to his campaign promises and outrage his constituents. It is unlikely that the administration would provide an amnesty as described above.
Putting aside the question of the viability of Rodriguez's proposal, this interview creates an obstacle for the White House and those attempting to restore law and order to the U.S. immigration system. A return to enforcement, whether it is through increased non-criminal removals, mandatory E-verify, or entry-exit tracking systems, has the potential to incentivize individuals to voluntarily return home and reduce the illegal population. However, any possible attrition-through-enforcement strategy is undercut by messages of potential amnesties. Migrants are rational actors and respond to incentives and deterrents. The possibility of an amnesty under the Trump administration could create an incentive significant enough for illegal aliens to remain in the United States, particularly if the White House fails to counter these messages and allows for such narratives to pervade the public.