The immigration issue has become a defining – and divisive -issue in the GOP presidential contest. Donald Trump’s dangerous vision for America — one of tearing families and communities across the nation apart — has drawn widespread rebuke from pundits across the political spectrum. As we noted yesterday, a lot of the criticism has come from conservative pundits. There’s more in the wake of Trump’s call for a “deportation force.” In addition, there’s a focus on the immigration records of two other candidates: Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. They’ve been taking potshots at each other – but both have questions to answers.
David Brooks in New York Times, “The G.O.P. at an Immigration Crossroads,” begins:
It’s no exaggeration to say that the next six months will determine the viability of the Republican Party. The demographics of this country are changing. This will be the last presidential election cycle in which the G.O.P., in its current form, has even a shot at winning the White House. And so the large question Republicans must ask themselves is: Are we as a party willing to champion the new America that is inexorably rising around us, or are we the receding roar of an old America that is never coming back?
Brooks poses four questions for Republicans, including how a “21st-century America” will view outsiders (“for Republicans in the Donald Trump camp, the metaphor is very clear: A wall. Outsiders are a threat and a wall will keep them out,” he notes). Brooks concludes:
The Republican Party faces a crossroads moment. Immigration is the key issue around which Republicans will determine the course of their party. It’ll be fascinating to see which way they go.
One more point. I’m sorry, Marco Rubio, when your party faces a choice this stark, with consequences this monumental, you’re probably not going to be able to get away with being a little on both sides.
Over at the Washington Post, Michael Gerson focused on Trump’s praise and support for “Operation Wetback”, “Trump hits a new low on immigration“. The program — praised by Trump in several instances now, including the most recent Republican primary debate — resulted in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, numerous U.S. citizens, and dozens of agonizing deaths in the Sonoran desert.
Trump did not actually say that name, presumably because it would have sounded racist. (I apologize for the necessity of using it to make my argument.) But shouldn’t it set off moral and ethical alarm bells when a candidate embraces a policy with a historical label too loathsome to mention in public? Instead, Trump said: “Dwight Eisenhower. You don’t get nicer. You don’t get friendlier. They moved 1.5 million people out. We have no choice. We. Have. No. Choice.”
The operation in question, energetically led by Army Gen. Joseph Swing, probably did move more than a million undocumented Mexican immigrants back to Mexico (though the figure may be exaggerated). People were taken with few possessions, in stroke-inducing heat, deep into the Mexican interior and dropped off, at first by bus, then on cargo boats in conditions a congressional investigation later compared to 18th-century slave ships. Eventually there was a mutiny aboard the Mercurio, after seven passengers drowned jumping from the ship. Dozens of others died after being left in sweltering, remote locations. This had been an embarrassing and largely forgotten historical footnote.
Until Trump. People have gotten accustomed and inured to the proposal at the heart of Trump’s appeal. But it is a policy that gets uglier with specificity. He wants to deport all undocumented immigrants, along with children who are U.S. citizens with undocumented parents. Trump would require that all be detained until they were deported. “I think it’s a process,” Trump said, “that can take 18 months to two years if properly handled.”
Meanwhile, Republican Presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have been embroiled in an ongoing war during the last few days over who has been the most conservative when it comes to the issue of immigration. Jennifer Rubin at Washington Post’s “Right Turn” focused on Cruz in her column, “Cruz is trapped on immigration“:
Duck, evade. Filibuster. Duck some more. Cruz, you see, is trapped. He cannot risk sounding like a lunatic by urging mass deportation. But if he fesses up that yes, we have to have “a conversation” about that, his “no amnesty” position is revealed to be a big phony, empty catch phrase.
One more factor to consider: Cruz, to his credit, has supported a huge expansion of the H-1B visa program. That does not sit well with the anti-immigrant crowed, the radio talk show hosts and others like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) who inveigh against foreigners stealing our jobs. But by gosh, Cruz is just like Jeb Bush and Rubio on the issue.
In short, Cruz would love to smear Rubio as a proponent of “open borders.” The problem is Cruz has to eventually answer what he would do: join Trump or give up the canard about opposing “amnesty.”
We know Trump will continue to push for mass deportation and extol the virtues of the horrific “Operation Wetback.” We look forward to seeing where Cruz and Rubio end up – but given the power of the #TrumpEffect, we have a feeling their positions are only going to get worse.