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Where The Bottom Rung of GOP Presidential Candidates Stand On Immigration (It’s Not Pretty)

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While former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are certainly the loudest nativists of the 2024 Republican presidential primary field, they’re not the only candidates to put forward anti-immigrant plans. Rather than offering workable and humane solutions to our broken immigration system, the proposals from GOP candidates including Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy have been a race to the bottom, from advocating for the return of inhumane border policy, to waging war within the border of our neighbor Mexico.

  • Mike Pence: Former vice president and Indiana governor has been portrayed by mainstream media as critical of former President Donald Trump’s incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection (a fairly low bar for someone who the mob called to be summarily executed), but he not only owns everything his boss did on immigration, he wants to bring it back. Pence has echoed Stephen Miller’s baseless claim of “asylum fraud” and called for the reinstatement of the inhumane and illegal Remain in Mexico policy, as well as the anti-asylum Title 42 policy, the public health order that he and Miller teamed up on to implement against the advice of CDC experts. In claiming that he would not restart family separation as president, Pence falsely said the policy began under the Obama administration, and that the Trump administration “rightly reversed course.” The zero tolerance policy, which led to family separation, was signed into place by Trump appointee Kirstjen Nielsen and was fervently endorsed by Trump’s attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. Pence’s anti-immigrant record also precedes his time as vice president. As governor of Indiana, Pence tried to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in his state, citing unfounded national security concerns and completely ignoring the fact that refugees are among the most vetted migrants to the U.S. A conservative appeals court later ruled against Pence’s cruel action. Now, looking for a promotion, the immigration plan endorsed by Pence leads with the white nationalist “invasion” rhetoric. 
  • Chris Christie: While the former New Jersey governor has been pitched by the beltway media as the anti-Trump, he distanced himself from decidedly pro-immigrant sentiments and legislative wins from his time in office, like a bill that granted undocumented students in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. Remember the #TrumpEffect? While Christie was initially supportive of a pathway to citizenship, he disowned it after entering the 2016 race. Christie also threatened to veto legislation that would make New Jersey roads safer by opening driver’s licenses to undocumented residents. He claimed he was “disturbed” by the proposal, which would have simply allowed parents to drive their kids to school with a little less worry about being separated or worse, and would have increased the chances that New Jersey drivers were insured. Maybe Christie would’ve been more supportive if he could have tracked them across the state like human FedEx packages?
  • Nikki Haley: The former North Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. has called for the physically impossible as part of her sparse immigration plans: a closure to the border. “Close the border,” she tweeted in April. “It’s not rocket science.” If it’s as simple as she claims, why hasn’t she answered if she means shutting down our border with Canada too? Does she want to close off traffic to our two largest trading partners? What about airports, where immigrants, travelers, refugees and asylum seekers arrive? Just scratch the surface of nativist sloganeering, and it’s just pure policy absurdity. It’s also indicative of the stance the GOP has come to adopt on immigration and border issues. The Wilson Center estimated in 2019 that shutting the U.S. Mexico border would cost the U.S. 5 million jobs. Haley is also still being mistakenly identified as a moderate candidate after urging the deportation of Raphael Warnock, the first Black senator from Georgia. Haley “made the comments during a rally with Mr. Warnock’s opponent, Herschel Walker,” The New York Times reported at the time. “‘So the only person we need to make sure we deport is Warnock,’ she said to a cheering crowd.”
  • Vivek Ramaswamy: The drug company executive entered the GOP primary without much name recognition earlier this year. In an effort to stand out in the field, he’s proposed what The New York Times has said are “some of the most aggressive stances of any candidate.” Ramaswamy has endorsed using “the military to secure the border without apology,” supported waging war on cartels in Mexico “Osama bin Laden-style,” and said “we have to deport universally, as humanely as we can,” millions of undocumented immigrants. News flash: there’s no such thing as humanely deporting millions of families. Ramaswamy, a son of Indian immigrants, has also proposed ending birthright citizenship and requiring U.S.-born Americans, “even if they’re a sixth generation American,” to take a citizenship test, potentially stripping untold numbers of people of their statehood. Ramaswamy has also embraced the racist “invasion” conspiracy on Fox falsely claiming that “we have an armed invasion” at the southern border. Ramaswamy’s stances have also earned him the attention of a number of anti-immigrant hate groups. The Federation for American Immigration Reform said Ramaswamy “places a high value on American citizenship.” Ramaswamy was also interviewed by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, another Tanton-network hate group. The old Spanish-language saying comes to mind: “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres”  – show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are.”
  • Great replacement and invasion theories: The racist belief that non-whites migrants are invading the U.S. and posing an existential and immediate threat is the looming presence over the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Despite ties to domestic terror attacks carried out by racist mass murderers, these conspiracy theories have been endorsed by Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, the top two GOP candidates in the race. Pence’s political group, “Advancing American Freedom,” released an immigration and border plan with the first point reading “DECLARE AN INVASION AT THE BORDER,” detailing a dangerous plan to turn the conspiracy theory into actual policy. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott’s plan pushes a dog-whistle for the great replacement conspiracy theory, suggesting in a misleading figure about the number of migrants who’ve tried to enter the country that millions of migrants are replacing entire populations of states. Once confined to the fringes, replacement theory has become a mainstay of the GOP.  America’s Voice has identified over 500 examples of elected Republicans or GOP campaigns employing this lie over the last year.