While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are running very different campaigns on a number of topics, few issues present such a stark contrast as immigration. Not only do the two candidates offer diametrically opposed views on the role of immigration and immigrants in America, but their positions are anchored in divergent theories regarding the politics of immigration.
The good news for Hillary Clinton is this: overwhelmingly and increasingly, the American public is siding with her on immigration and rejecting the dark and deportation-focused radicalism of Donald Trump.
A spate of recent polling underscores this fact. Recent polls from the New York Times/CBS, Quinnipiac, Washington Post/ABC News, CNN, and Gallup find that between 72% and 88% of Americans back either citizenship or legalization for undocumented immigrants over deportation. Even the most recent poll from Fox News found support for legalization over deportation by a 74%-18% margin. As the Washington Post highlighted, Trump’s overt nativism actually is “increasing sympathy for immigrants and depressing support for his harsh enforcement techniques.”
All of this matters hugely for the Republican Party and its long-term future. As the Wall Street Journal’s Neil King pointed out, the share of Latino voters with a positive view of the Republican Party in WSJ/NBC News polling has plummeted over the past few years: from 33% in August 2012; to 24% in September 2015; to 21% in September 2016; to just 16% in their October 2016 poll.
The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“As we enter the homestretch of the election cycle, it is clear that the American public overwhelmingly sides with Hillary Clinton on immigration. In fact, early in her campaign she held an event in Las Vegas that announced her pro-immigrant, pro-reform vision. She convened a roundtable with DREAMers, and made it clear that a strong position on immigration was going to be a pillar of her campaign. She has since made it known that immigration reform will be one of her top priorities in the first year of her presidency.
“Meanwhile, Donald Trump has put his dark and divisive stances on immigration at the center of his campaign. Many on the far right have long-argued that a nationalist candidate who takes a very hard line stance would mobilize disaffected white voters on such a scale that it would more than overcome any advantage a Democratic candidate enjoys with Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters. As Trump has made nativism a feature – not a bug – of his candidacy, this so-called ‘missing white voter’ strategy is being put to the test. It is turning out that while his unbridled extremism may excite a segment of the Republican base, it simultaneously alienates the majority of Americans.
“It wasn’t long ago that the conventional wisdom about the politics of immigration went something like this: Republicans can use immigration to mobilize the base, win over independents and wedge Democrats. In this election, this script has been flipped. Hillary Clinton is leaning in with a progressive and pragmatic approach to immigration policy and winning over voters by doing so, and it is Republicans who are feeling wedged. Trump’s most ardent supporters may chant ‘build the wall,’ but the more significant development is that many moderate Republicans and independents are rejecting Trump’s nativism and are refusing to vote for a bigot. Welcome to the new politics of immigration.”