It looks like the promised Republican vision of “responsible governance” has a decidedly anti-immigrant bent. In both chambers of Congress and in the early stages of the 2016 campaign, the Republican Party is adopting and embracing a restrictionist vision of immigration policy centered on maximizing deportations. Despite widespread recognition about the political dangers of a hardline immigration stance heading into a presidential election, the GOP continues to careen headlong into a 2016 election cycle with an evident determination to entrench its anti-immigrant and anti-Latino brand.
The Republican anti-immigrant trifecta includes:
In the House of Representatives, Republican leaders kicked off the new Congress by passing legislation straight from the top of the anti-immigrant wish list, voting for proposals to overturn last November’s immigration executive action, end the DACA program for DREAMers, and maximize deportations for all undocumented immigrants in America.
The newly Republican-controlled Senate is not only planning to advance the House anti-immigrant bill, but recently put two of the most strident anti-immigrant voices in the caucus at the helm of their immigration policy. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is the new Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, with Senator David Vitter (R-LA) serving as Vice Chair (see here for a recap of their anti-immigrant bona fides).
The early 2016 presidential contest unofficially kicked off in Iowa this past weekend, as a contingent of potential GOP presidential contenders attended Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) “Freedom Summit.” As Rep. King crowed to MSNBC about his growing influence in shaping the party’s immigration direction over his intra-party opponents, “their agenda has been marginalized…mine’s been strengthened.” While former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is trying to chart a different direction and present a pro-immigrant, optimistic tone, he is clearly rowing in the opposite direction from most in his party.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
A year ago, Republicans seemed to be gearing up to pass a sensible immigration reform package as a way of growing the economy and growing the GOP’s appeal. Today, they are tripping over themselves to pander to the nativist base of the party. It’s difficult to see how this strategy will result in policy solutions or political progress. Could the strategic objective be to win over more voters in western Iowa and in the deep South? Perhaps the GOP should worry more about winning over voters in swing states where Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters will be decisive.
A New York Times profile of influential journalist Jorge Ramos underscores the political dangers Republicans have created by embracing anti-immigrant policies. Ramos explains the reasons why immigration is such a salient issue for him and many other Latino voters. As he tells Jackie Calmes of the Times:
immigration is personal. Immigration is the issue that tells us who is with us and who is against us; there’s no question about it. And it’s very simple to understand why — half of all Latinos over 18 years of age were born outside the United States. It really makes no sense to attack them and criticize them if you want their vote.
As former George W. Bush campaign advisor Matthew Dowd states:
Remember what L.B.J. said, ‘When you lose Walter Cronkite, you’ve lost the war’? [Ramos is] not only a journalist, he’s become the voice of the Latino constituency. And that’s where Republicans have to worry — you don’t want to lose Jorge Ramos.