Ahead of Tonight’s GOP Debate in SC, Leading GOP Contenders Propose Mass Deportation or Self-Deportation
During this week’s official Republican response to the State of the Union address, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called on the country to resist “the siren call of the angriest voices” in how we welcome and treat immigrants. The fact is that the entire Republican presidential field is advancing policies on immigration that are pulled from the playbook of these “angriest voices.”
The field has followed the leader in an effort to appease the anti-immigrant crowd that now dominates the Republican base. Each candidate pledges to ramp up immigration enforcement, end executive action programs and block an initial path to legalization and an achievable path to citizenship – despite support for such a comprehensive reform package from a strong majority of Americans.
Donald Trump is receiving the explicit support and endorsement of white nationalist leaders in America, Both Trump and Ted Cruz proudly trumpet their associations with leading nativist lawmakers Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Meanwhile, Marco Rubio is getting hit with attacks about his support for “amnesty” because he once backed a comprehensive immigration reform package that combined a 13 year path to citizenship with strong enforcement measures – a stance he disavows every chance he gets. For a party whose post-2012 autopsy called for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, this is a remarkable development.
Here’s our updated take on where the three leading Republican candidates –Trump, Cruz, and Rubio – stand on immigration, with particular focus on the fundamental question of what to do with 11 million undocumented immigrants who are settled in America:
Donald Trump’s Mass Deportation Stance – and Embrace by White Nationalists: Donald Trump promises to round up and deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants in America within 18-24 months. He promises to deploy a Deportation Force to do the job and says the key is “good management.” In addition, he promises to revoke the citizenship of some 5 million U.S. citizen children whose parents are undocumented and deport them as well. He also says he will round up Syrian refugees already resettled in the U.S. and send them back. As if promising to expel a quarter of the nation’s Latino community and send refugees back to their persecutors isn’t enough, he recently called for a ban on the admission of all Muslims into the United States. We should not become desensitized to the radicalism of these nativist proposals nor his religious and racial bigotry. The fact that many GOP voters express support for these ideas is especially chilling. Nor should we overlook the fact that Trump’s words and “policy” prescriptions are havingreal-life consequences, including numerous instances of hate crimes and harassment against Latinos, Muslim-Americans, and African-Americans linked to the “combustible” atmosphere fostered by the candidate and his campaign (see this recap of the disturbing scene on display at the latest Trump event in Las Vegas). Trump remains the GOP frontrunner and his fellow candidates have so far refused to reject the notion of supporting Trump if he becomes the party’s nominee. While the white nationalist movement has been supportive of Trump in recent months, key elements of the movement are now taking the next step and engaging politically. Jared Taylor, founder of white supremacist magazine American Renaissance, recorded robocalls in Jan. 2016 telling potential Iowa caucus-goers to support Trump, per Talking Points Memo. Meanwhile, the family and ex-staffers of former Alabama Gov. and pro-segregation leader George Wallace reflected to BuzzFeed that Trump and Wallace’s campaigns share much in common, including attempts to stoke “fear and hate.”
Ted Cruz’s Self-Deportation Stance:Ted Cruz has now officially adopted an immigration stance that is to the right of Mitt Romney’s. Cruz and his campaign team have made it clear that the candidate “unequivocally — unequivocally — does not support legalization.” His “attrition through enforcement” approach – an idea taken directly from extreme anti-immigrant groups – is the same as Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” stance. The hideous idea is to make the lives of undocumented immigrants so miserable that those not rounded up will pick up and “voluntarily” leave the country. Unlike Romney, Cruz also is now embracing significant new restrictions on legal immigration, allying himself with Donald Trump’s views and bragging that his new stance has been influenced by ultra-hardliners such as Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA). In January, Cruz even tried to outflank Trump on immigration from the right, saying at an event in Iowa of Trump, “He’s advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that.” Recently, Cruz has been touring Iowa with the leading congressional nativist, Steve King, saying of King, “I’ll tell you, there has been no one more relentless, no one more tireless, no one more effective in stopping amnesty and fighting to secure the border, in fighting to keep this country safe than Iowa’s own Steve King…I have been proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in each and every one of those fights.” Cruz recently appointed Rep. King his campaign’s national co-chair. The bottom line is that Cruz, who avoids Trump-like bigotry that demonizes entire nationalities and religions, would seek policy outcomes that differ little from those of Trump.
Marco Rubio’s Self-Deportation Stance (With the False Promise of an Eventual Path to Citizenship): Despite even Gov. Haley asserting that Rubio supports “amnesty,” we have a different take. Rubio has perfected the art of wrapping hardline immigration policies in softer rhetorical packaging. But once you move past his disciplined talking points and unpack what he’s actually proposing, Rubio favors aggressive enforcement-first policies that would end up looking an awful lot like self-deportation. Rubio argues for a step-by-step approach that is remarkably similar to the one espoused by Cruz: border security, mandatory E-Verify, entry-exit systems and legal immigration reforms (Rubio supports a shift from family reunification to employer-based immigration, while the new Cruz position wants to restrict even employment-based immigration). Then, says Rubio, if illegal immigration is “under control” he might support work permits for some of the undocumented. Naturally, Rubio refuses to specify what “under control” means, and ignores the fact that net migration from Mexico has fallen below zero, as more Mexican immigrants are leaving America than entering. Then, some ten years after illegal immigration is under control and work permits have been issued, Rubio is prepared to keep citizenship on the table. As MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin recently explained, “no one knows when this 10-year-or-so clock actually begins. In fact, it’s still not clear when people will gain just temporary protection from deportation, let alone a path to a green card and citizenship. In an interview last month, Rubio seemed to indicate that he might wait 10 to 12 years before even having a conversation about green cards, a timeline that would punt the issue past his hypothetical presidency entirely. And every day the enforcement measures, especially provisions that block hiring undocumented immigrants, are in place without some temporary legalization component, then the plan is effectively Mitt Romney’s ‘self-deportation.’” To put it bluntly, Rubio’s “path to citizenship” is, in reality, a path to nowhere. The idea that his “plan” would result in undocumented immigrants getting citizenship is but a cruel hoax. Rubio’s “path to citizenship” has more to do with fooling donors and journalists, as well as desperately trying and failing to avoid the “flip-flopper” label, than it does with fixing our broken immigration system.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “As the leading GOP contenders pander to the hardliners in the GOP base, most of the rest of the country is watching the rank display of nativism, bigotry and extremism in amazement. Don’t these people know there’s a general election around the corner? Don’t they know that the vast majority of Americans recognize that rounding up or driving out 11 million undocumented immigrants is both un-American and unworkable? Didn’t they notice that being hardcore on immigration backfired on Mitt Romney? Whatever happens in the GOP primaries, the rest of us will get a chance to weigh in on the propriety of such stances come Election Day.“