Please note the following column was translated from Spanish to English and is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper credit. This column is available in Spanish here.
Donald Trump has fine-tuned his strategy to “win” the Latino vote, as he assured he will do if he’s the Republican nominee: to repeal, if he is elected president, the executive actions on immigration and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, including DREAMers, and potentially citizen children who would have to leave the country with their parents.
The funny thing is that in 2012, Trump blamed the defeat of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on his promotion of the concept of self-deportation as an immigration platform. Trump said Romney “had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”
But now, Trump seems to have gone further than Romney, saying that all undocumented immigrants need to leave, as he did in an interview with Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press. As an expert in generalities, Trump said that “We’re going to keep families together, but (undocumented immigrants) need to go.” (Mass deportation? Self-deportation?) He said “the good ones” would then be able to return quickly, and suggested that Mexico pay to build a wall along the border. And when Todd asked about his favorite Senators, Trump named Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of the most anti-immigrant members of the Republican Party.
Trump also released a document outlining his immigration positions, where he advocated, among other things, to end birthright citizenship for children born to undocumented mothers in the United States.
The businessman remains the favored candidate among Republican voters, according to various surveys, but without a doubt the Trump phenomenon has the potential to harm any Republican attempt to attract Latino voters in the general election. Poll after poll has shown that although Hispanic voters are interested in a wide range of issues, immigration remains the defining factor when it comes time to decide who to vote for.
No one dares to predict what will happen with Trump: if he will remain the top candidate, or if he will finally say something that sinks him, though he has offended Mexicans, immigrants, veterans and women and still leads the polls.
When Trump makes extreme suggestions like deporting millions of undocumented immigrants (and potentially their citizen children), he overlooks the huge economic cost of such a proposal, which could range from 300 billion to 600 billion dollars, according to various estimates. That’s a logistical nightmare that could take up to 20 years. Its humanitarian cost: the separation of families and a huge blow to the image of a nation of immigrants, not to mention the blight of our economy, which relies on undocumented labor in many industries. As a businessman, Trump should know that.
Trump may finally sink. Who knows. But Trump has caused damage to the Republican Party, whether he remains in the race or disappears. Although there’s still a year and a half until the general election, we’re only four and a half months out from the primaries and caucuses, and in a field of 17 Republican candidates, the attention remains on Trump and his wild proposals. The only thing that Latino voters are hearing from Republicans is that Trump wants to deport millions, and that includes family, friends, and acquaintances of a large number of Hispanic voters.
Trump is scaring away the Latino vote.
Republican candidate Lindsey Graham explained it clearly on CBS’s Face the Nation: “So the leading contender, Mr. Trump, is going backward on immigration, and I think he will take us all with him if we don’t watch it.”
Maribel Hastings is a columnist and Senior Advisor at America’s Voice.