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ICYMI: Greg Sargent Asks if Trump’s Call for Mass Deportation Will Force Other Republicans to Specify their Stance

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As we assessed earlier today in a statement, Donald Trump’s comments to CNN endorsing a vision of mass deportation is as extreme as it is ridiculous.  There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.  Two-thirds have lived and worked in America for more than a decade.  Most live in families.  Many own homes.  They are intertwined in families and communities, they are settled and most are going nowhere.  The idea that he will round up and deport a population the size of Ohio is un-American, unworkable and unaffordable.  Politically, it’s consistent with his racist comments about Mexican immigrants, and it’s more extreme than Mitt Romney’s infamous embrace of “self-deportation.”

In new analysis posted this afternoon, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent examines Trump’s comments in the context of the rest of the 2016 Republican field and immigration, wondering if Trump’s newest contribution to the race will be forcing the GOP to go on the record to specify regarding mass deportation.  The whole piece, which we excerpt below, is worth a read:

“In an interview with CNN, Trump went farther than I’ve seen any Republican presidential candidate go on immigration, explicitly pledging to carry out the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants…

In response, Ed Kilgore joked that it’s time to ‘bring on the cattle cars’ to facilitate mass deportation…

…One wonders how large a Cattle Car Caucus there really is in Congress.  Republicans have voted to roll back Obama’s executive actions shielding millions from deportations, but many have premised their opposition on legalistic and separation-of-powers grounds, which is a legitimate case to make (the courts may side with it), even if one disagrees with it.  But broadly speaking, Republicans who oppose legalization have not been meaningfully pressed on the full implications of that opposition, i.e., do they believe all of the undocumented should be removed?  If so, how do we go about doing this?  If not, do we just leave them in the shadows, and why would that be better for the country than legalization with penalties would be?

And on that score, Ed is right to hope that Trump has now forced this issue out into the open.  Indeed, one hopes that the moderators of the upcoming GOP debate will see an opportunity in Trump’s cattle car musings: why not ask all the GOP candidates whether they agree with him?  And if not, where do they stand on the 11 million exactly?  Remember, Mitt Romney’s big ‘self-deportation’ moment came at a GOP primary debate.  So perhaps the moderators will see an opportunity here to make a similarly newsy splash.

A discussion of this topic could prove very valuable.  It’s a discussion you’d think conservatives would want, too.  It’s certainly possible you could see Ted Cruz and Trump use such a discussion to try to knock Jeb Bush down a few pegs.  Both Cruz and Trump favor legal immigration, and perhaps they could continue advocating for that while insisting that the rule of law requires removal of all illegal immigrants.  But it’s not at all clear how many GOP candidates would agree with Trump here.

What about Scott Walker?  He has previously supported comprehensive immigration reform but has since moved to the right on the issue, and he has also said undocumented immigrants need to return to their ‘country of origin and then get in line.’  So he may demur and say he supports legal status, once the border is secured.  What about Marco Rubio, who championed the Senate bill, but is now in the border-security-first camp?  Maybe somewhere to the left of that.

And Jeb Bush?  Well, given that he has already called on fellow Republicans to allow that most illegal immigrants face a morally complex plight — and that they have something positive to contribute to American life — this could perhaps provide him an occasion to stage the grand confrontation with Trump that some Republicans think is inevitable.

It would also be really interesting to see how GOP primary voters react to such a discussion.  One recent poll showed that 63 percent of Republicans want the focus of immigration policy to be not on legalization, but on ‘stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S.’ and ‘deporting those already here.’  That finding may have been inflated by the border security component of this question wording; a discussion of these issues could help flesh out where Republican voters really are on them.

The point is that eventually, we’ll need to hear from all the GOP candidates as to what they would do about the 11 million — beyond vaguely supporting legal status, but only after some future point at which we’ve attained a Platonic ideal of border security.  Trump may have just made it more likely that this moment will come sooner, rather than later.  One can hope, anyway.”