Donald Trump exploded onto the political scene with his promise to deport all of the illegal immigrants in the country, a bold political position a big portion of the country would like to see but no candidate had advocated. It seems to have paid off for him. It distinguished him from his Republican rivals and shifted the entire debate. But look deeper and it’s clear Trump does not really want to do it. He always adds he wants “to let the good ones back in.”

Who are they? He has never elaborated. But I discern the usual Republican/amnesty proviso that says if you aren’t a violent felon, you can stay. The fact that the overwhelming majority of illegals commit felony identity fraud, generally every time they change employers and need a social security card, is completely overlooked. I would argue that identity fraud of that nature shows contempt for the rule of law and also of our immigration laws in general. A person who has a drug offense or beats someone up might pay a debt to society in serving a prison term and thereafter live a clean life. I’d rather have that person here for life than the border jumper who arrogates to himself the right to decide he can enter the country and use a dozen false social security numbers over a decade. That person is more likely to recidivism in cheating on his taxes or other types of fraud. I see Trump’s “let the good ones back in” as the shrewdest amnesty proposal ever made. He can fool a lot of people because the first part, the deportations, and the wall, sound so tough.

Ted Cruz “loved” legal immigration and voted to legalize all illegals (but not give citizenship) in 2013. He has voted for H-2b visas. Since Trump entered the race he has turned on a dime and now sounds like Trump. He’s another conflicted pro-business Republican who wants cheap labor and the perception of toughness But for the duration of his presidential campaign, he’ll downplay the visas.

Marco Rubio is the most shameless hypocrite, having voted for the 2013 immigration legalization bill which would have doubled the level of immigrants and given mass amnesty. He is now a co-sponsor of a bill to double the number of H-2b visas. He believes we have a “shortage” of science and technology workers and need more from abroad. He claims to have learned that the country does not support a “comprehensive” approach to immigration, that is combining enforcement with legalization. He wants the enforcement first and we’ll deal with legalization later when the border is secure.

We’ve heard that for 30 years. The enforcement never happens. Would Rubio be different? Possibly, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever know.

The Democratic candidates are on a totally different page emphasizing legalization and essentially the status quo. So immigration hawks have to peer through the distortions and half-truths being offered to us by the Republicans.