The GOP's Suicidal Immigration Stance

The policies favored by Cruz and Trump will alienate voters Republicans need to win.


Ted Cruz, who won the Republican caucus in Iowa on Monday, says he has always opposed legalizing the 11 million people who live in the U.S. without the government's permission. Donald Trump, who finished second in Iowa, has promised to deport them all, while Marco Rubio, who was a point behind Trump, has renounced the "path to citizenship" he used to support and wants to double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol, even as net migration from Mexico has dropped below zero.

On the face of it, the Republican Party is not in a very pro-immigrant mood. Yet the positions staked out by Cruz and Trump are unpopular even among Republicans and could prove fatal to a party that needs support from Hispanic voters to win.

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump remains the front-runner nationally, polling at or above 30 percent, and hostility to immigration is the most prominent theme of his campaign. The billionaire reality TV star, who has disparaged Mexican immigrants as  criminals, rapists, and drug dealers, promises to end birthright citizenship, triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, "humanely" deport 11 million unauthorized immigrants, and build a wall on our southern border at the Mexican government's expense.

Cruz does not go quite as far as Trump, but he promises to "build a wall that works, triple border security, and put in place the surveillance and biometric tracking [required] to secure the border." The Texas senator wants to boost deportations and opposes anything even vaguely resembling "amnesty."

During last week's Republican presidential debate, Cruz slammed Rubio for getting elected to the Senate as an opponent of amnesty in 2010, then supporting a 2013 bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants who met certain conditions to become citizens. The Florida senator desperately tried to distance himself from that bill, saying "there's not going to be consensus on this issue until we enforce our immigration laws."

Cruz himself seemed to support some form of legalization in 2013, proposing what he described as a "middle ground" amendment to the immigration bill that would "allow for those 11 million people who are here illegally a legal status, with citizenship off the table." Cruz now claims the amendment was merely a ploy aimed at showing that Democrats were not interested in bringing unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows so much as boosting the number of voters inclined to support their party.

One reason immigrants like Democrats more than Republicans is that Democrats like immigrants more than Republicans do. According to polling by the Pew Research Center, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say immigrants have a negative impact on crime, the economy, and society.

Yet Pew also finds that just a quarter of Republicans favor the mass deportation Trump promises, while most think "there should be a way for undocumented immigrants to remain in the country"—something none of the leading Republican candidates is advocating. In the general population, Pew reports, just 17 percent of Americans want mass deportation, while 72 percent support legalization.

Results from the most recent Gallup poll are similar, with 79 percent of Americans supporting work permits or citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and just 19 percent favoring mass deportation. Gallup also found that almost two-thirds of Americans think immigration should be increased or kept at its current level.

The immigration policies favored by Trump and Cruz are especially unpopular among the growing bloc of Hispanic voters, and that poses a real problem for Republicans. Mitt Romney, who said he would encourage "self-deportation" by making economic conditions intolerable for unauthorized immigrants, won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, down from 44 percent for George W. Bush in 2004.

The polling firm Latino Decisions calculates that the 2016 Republican nominee will need at least 42 percent of the Hispanic vote to win the election. He will not get that by talking up border walls and deportations. 

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

NEXT: Free State Project Participants: It's Time to Move to New Hampshire For Real!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. while I personally believe in the “High Wall, Wide Gate” approach to immigration (and am an immigrant myself), nearly every hispanic person I have ever spoken to about the subject of illegal immigration has been very firmly against legalizing them.

    So — from my perspective at least — the thrust of this article is a non sequitur

    1. My wife immigrated legally and is annoyed by the pandering to the illegals. I would also note the Republicans are giving the free shit crowd, the SJW and many other groups to the Democrats without a fight.

      1. I too am a legal immigrant. I arrived in August 2002, with less than a USD1000 and a legal visa. I am now pretty close to the 1%. I see this as fulfillment of the American Dream: do things by the book, and get back results based on what effort you put in.

        I’ve been told I have “privileged” by many SJWs. I’ve been told “I didnt build that” by my president. I worry that the America I dreamed about and the America I came to is being choked to death by identity politics.

        But one thing I am certain, I am fighting for the survivial of “my” America, the one where immigrants like me can come with nothing, and become something. I am fighting to the bitter end, unlike those 18yo fighting age men all running away from Syria, abandoning their families, instead of having the courage to take back their country

    2. The team I work with is composed of 6 immigrants from a variety of places around the world…Europe, Asia, Mexico. At least 5 of the 6 are now US citizens.

      To the best of my knowledge not a one of them would support any kind of amnesty.
      Most of them don’t think much of socialism either.

    3. So — from my perspective at least — the thrust of this article is a non sequitur

      Let’s use reliable data instead. Apparently, well over 75% of Hispanics support citizenship or permanent residency for unauthorized immigrants.…..1433426401

      Please correct me if I’m wrong.


        Maybe try this link if the other asks you for a subscription.

      2. Apples to oranges. You further restricted the data set to Hispanics.

        Many of the legal immigrants I know that firmly oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. These legal immigrants are NOT Hispanic themselves. A couple I know are European, most are Asian, and all of them are angry about the amnesty issue.

        So, while it may be true that 75% of Hispanics support citizenship or permanent residency for illegal immigrants, how many of the other immigrant groups will be angry that these illegal immigrants “cut in line” and vote on it?

        One Asian friend was printing out the legal forms for her sister’s immigration process while Trump was on TV. She was yelling “yeah!” along with Trump’s pitch against illegal immigration while half a ream of paperwork piled up in the printer. Gee, I wonder who she’s going to vote for… (yes, she is a citizen now and can vote legally).

        1. Edit for grammar: Sentence above should read:

          “Many of the legal immigrants I know firmly oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants.”

          Edit to add:

          It is important to note that currently, Asian immigrants (both legal and illegal) far outnumber Hispanic immigrants from Latin America.

          I quote an article entitled “Asians outnumber Hispanics among new immigrants” by Carol Morello from 2012 (for some reason I am blocked from pasting the link here–you can search for the above article by title and author). This article is old, but within it, the trend identified by Pew Research has been ongoing since 2009 till now (recent articles confirm it is still ongoing):

          “Most Asian and Hispanic immigrants arrive in the United States with very different backgrounds. Pew estimated that 13 to 15 percent of Asian immigrants over the past decade were undocumented, compared with 45 percent of Hispanic immigrants. More Asian immigrants are admitted with employment visas than those from other countries.”

          So, number of Asian immigrants number of Hispanic immigrants AND 85% to 87% of the Asian immigrants did it legally = a bigger batch of Asian immigrants that would be angry that Hispanic illegal immigrants “cut in line.”

          1. I guess Reason’s comment section doesn’t let us paste https links.

            The article I quoted is from the Washington Post, who uses SSL for their entire site.

          2. So, number of Asian immigrants number of Hispanic immigrants AND 85% to 87% of the Asian immigrants did it legally = a bigger batch of Asian immigrants that would be angry that Hispanic illegal immigrants “cut in line.”

            If you’re saying that a majority people who are Asian would support deportation as opposed to a path to citizenship or permanent residency (unlike Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics), you’ll need to back it up with data. It’s certainly possible, but I’ll wait until I see the numbers.

            1. Straw man. Deportation vs. “Path to Citizenship” are not the only options. That you would try to force them to be says more about your own dishonesty.

          3. My anectodal experience is that legal immigrants do NOT favor amnesty.

            I’m an immigrant BTW. Illegals overstaying their visas make it so much harder for their countrymen to travel here legally.

        2. “Gee, I wonder who she’s going to vote for… ”

          Stockholm syndrome… Rather than resenting those who put her through this demeaning mountain of paper shuffling, she identifies with them and resents those who have the gumption, and take the risks to avoid it. She’ll make a fine addition to the citizenry.

        3. The OP specifically mentioned his Hispanic friends. The article also made specific mention of votes from the Hispanic demographic. That’s why I mentioned Hispanics.

          The link shows results for other racial groups including people who are White and Black if you’re interested in other races, although it doesn’t include people who are Asian. Spoiler alert: Whites and Blacks also support paths to permanent residency or citizenship by a sizeable margin.

          1. Reply to dchang0.

      3. I’d wager that 75% of Hispanics also support socialism and various government ‘free stuff’ programs.

        If the GOP suddenly became pro-amnesty, they still wouldn’t get a single one of those votes.

        1. But, “socialism and various government ‘free stuff’ programs” is so libertarian. It’s no wonder you all support this.

  2. I look forward to a civil and erudite conversation elucidating many thoroughly new and interesting perspectives on this complex issue in this discussion thread.

    1. I am looking forward to the article explaining why the Libertarian Party should abandon libertarianism because it hasn’t won them a seat in Congress.

  3. This really is an old story. 4 years ago the GOP did a long post mortem after Romney lost, and they said exactly that…if they were to survive they had to appeal to minorities, including the Latino vote.

    They have done everything possible to ignore their own prescription. They own it.

    1. That doesn’t mean they have to do “everything possible” to appeal to those minorities. If it does, they might just as well move out and give them the country.

      1. I agree. That said, nothing short of giving the left the country will make the left happy, and their constituency STILL won’t vote Republican. They’d stand there taking and taking with their hands held out for more and still vote Democrat.

  4. “Net migration from Mexico” There’s more than just that one country. What about the rest of illegal migration?

  5. Once again conflating immigration with illegally entering the USA. Republicans are not anti-immigration they are anti-crime.

    1. Not the point. The person who is leading the polls for the GOP nomination has insulted the Latino community when he discusses this issue. That’s not how you make inroads there, which supposedly was the GOP goal coming out of the last election.

      1. I agree. The GOP could make a strong appeal to legal citizen Latinos as SoCons and small businesses owners without necessarily condoning illegal immigration. Instead the best polling candidate calls them all rapists and criminals without considering how wide that brush paints.

      2. The problem is that “the best polling candidate” in the GOP race is really a hard core identity politics liberal. I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories. In this case however I am having a hard time to see Donald Trump as anything other than a trojan horse planted by the Clintons.

        Until only a few years ago ALL his policies, including illegal immigration, were to the left of Obama. He plays identity politics superbly – just like a hardcore leftwing Democrat.

        The only thing changed is that he suddenly embraced a bunch of facist views and is using them to appeal to the crazy base which hijacked the tea party.

  6. I’m fine with alienating people who do not want to obey our laws.

    1. You’re alienating the entire community, not just those who are here illegally.

      1. What about alienating the anti-amnesty community?

        1. It’s the GOP who said after the last election that if they were to have any chance of winning in 2016 they could not alienate minorities in how they speak as well as policy. And they then proceed to alienate them.

          Simply saying “Hey, you shouldn’t be alienated” isn’t going to work.

          1. No, it was some GOP political hacks who said that, the rank and file were and still are against amnesty

  7. “”””The policies favored by Cruz and Trump will alienate voters Republicans need to win.”””

    So the Republicans should support amnesty in order to get a few more votes and risk loosing millions of votes when the anti-Amnesty voters see what they have done

    1. “So the Republicans should support amnesty in order to get a few more votes and risk loosing millions of votes when the anti-Amnesty voters see what they have done”

      Doing the right thing can be costly. The Republicans should know this better than anyone. They abolished slavery and as thanks were frozen out of the south for a century.

      1. The illegals are free to leave whenever they want, they are not slaves

        1. “The illegals are free to leave whenever they want”

          So what? The legals are free to leave whenever they want, as well. The issue is what the Republicans want.

      2. Doing the right thing can be costly. The Republicans should know this better than anyone. They abolished slavery and as thanks the descendents of the people they freed vote, almost completely, for the party that started a war to keep them slaves.


        1. Read a damn book, that’s not how it started, only how it ended. In the 60s the GOP pivoted so hard to white southerners to get the pro Jim Crow SoCon vote, they’ve been getting flack for it ever since.

          Hell, Trump’s virulent anti-immigration stance smacks of so much deja-vu, you’d think the Matrix broke.

  8. The policies favored by Cruz and Trump will alienate voters Republicans need to win.

    If the Republicans really want to win, perhaps they should offer all the “free shit” the Democrats offer. If you have to become more like your opponents to win, then what is the point of running?

    1. Trump is doing something equivalent and less questionable.

      Instead of “free shit”, he’s offering to “protect the interests” of working class American citizens, whether with immigration policy or trade policy.

      My preferred “free shit” politics are vouchers and cash for everybody. (Go, Switzerland!) Much better than the evil and obscene welfare state that we have now, which punishes people for working. And it puts a lot of welfare state apparatchiks out of business.

  9. Jacob may produce the most illogical arguments in the world. He wants a GOP candidate to screw the 95% GOP voters who are against illegal immigration in order to possibly (but hardly likely) win over a few pro-immigrant voters who are not fervent Dems. Nobody with this degree of ignorance of political matters should be provided with a forum for spewing his BS.

  10. “11 million unauthorized immigrants”

    Ugh… I’m seeing this more and more, and it’s fucking pathetic – “libertarians” adopting the rhetoric and language of the progressive establishment.

    Today’s prominent libertarians are a sham.

    1. Don’t blame all libertarians for the Proggy infiltration at Reason.

      And “11 million unauthorized immigrants” is hardly the worst. It assumes that *authorization* is a relevant concept. The OPEN BORDERZ crowd is just as likely to go apoplectic over it.

      The proggy preferred term is “undocumented”. It’s perfectly all right to be here, they just don’t have all their paperwork handy.

    2. One thing libertarians *should* support is the rule of law. Otherwise, you’re just anarchists, like many on both the Left and the Right claim.

  11. The fundamental premise is a bit broad.

    It’s mainly just people who have an interest in importing low skill workers and welfare dependents that would have a problem with Republican immigration priorities. That’s not all immigrants. It probably is disproportionately Hispanic immigrants. And people who want more workers.

  12. So the GOP is more likely to win by throwing away the anti illegal immigration vote (which makes up most of the GOP base) to (unsuccessfully) try and get what tiny amount of voters are out there that want amnesty but aren’t diehard Democrats? How exactly is that supposed to work?

  13. Actually Cruz’s amendment was a ploy. He talked about it with Jeff Sessions of Alabama and got him on his side because it was a ploy.

  14. I work with three legal immigrants. Not a one of them believe in amnesty. I will say none of them are Hispanic.(Two Asians and one African.)

  15. One reason immigrants like Democrats more than Republicans is that Democrats are kinder to them.
    See The truth about immigration and welfare will blow you away…..way-300940

  16. Why do they need a “path to citizenship”. I’m pretty sure most green card holders are perfectly happy with that status. No visa needed to go back home and visit relatives. They can get just about any private sector job appropriate for their skills, though some government jobs require citizenship.

  17. Would you really have us believe that extending suffrage to between 20 and 40 million illegal immigrants who, to a significant degree, consume welfare and place pressure on the public purse will improve the United States materially?

    Mind you, upon gaining legal status the vast majority of these individuals will not earn an income sufficient to pay income tax, and if they do, it will be minimal. At the same time, adults will gain access to the generous range of welfare programs on offer. As things stand, households headed by illegal immigrants collect welfare for their broods of children in the form of TANF and lunch programs. I cite 20 to 30 million because 11 million is almost certainly an outdated figure; I’m skeptical of the idea of a static illegal population considering the (still) porous border and executive action against enforcement. Anyway, how will a population of this character serve to improve the electoral prospects of the Republican Party?

    Beyond mythical political gains and material enrichment, does legalization stand to improve the United States in any other form? Are they of value culturally and socially? Do you want the US to resemble an average Latin American population, with a white political and economic elite, a mongrel mass of workers, and an underclass comprised mainly of blacks, the group most likely to be harmed by further low-skill immigration? Will legalization have the effect of rewarding law-breakers and encourage additional migratory waves?

    1. Following the ill-conceived amnesty of 1986, did illegal immigration abate? Furthermore, did Latinos vote in larger shares for Republicans? No and no. Legalizing prospective Democrats will, funny enough, benefit Democrats.

      You people are either disingenuous or genuinely stupid. These are some of the least desirable people to incorporate into the United States and are derived overwhelmingly from the peasant and criminal classes of Latin America. They’re poor, dependent on the state, criminalistic, exhibit profound rates of illegitimacy, resist the use of English, are intellectually worthless (largely) and have shown a willingness to flagrantly disregard and denigrate US immigration law. Latinos vote for the Democrats by a margin of around 25% to 35% on average (75% to 85% of votes cast) and this will not change.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.