Just when you thought that the worse possible ideas regarding immigration have already been uttered, the front-running Republican candidate proposes a “deportation force” to expel 11 million people out of the country. The most disturbing part is not Trump’s words, but the resonance this type of message has among a sector of the Republican base that seems to be dominating the process.
The latest GOP debate among presidential candidates showed the Party’s divide regarding immigration. It is good to see that there are other opinions besides the most extremist ones. The bad news is that, the more reasonable and specific the proposal, the less popular the candidate becomes.
This is the case with Ohio governor John Kasich, the most experienced politician in the group and who is currently in seventh place. None of the other candidates defined Trump’s ideas on immigration with as much clarity as he did when he said: “It’s a silly argument. It is not an adult argument. It makes no sense.”
For his part, Jeb Bush agreed, saying that the massive deportations proposed by Trump “would tear communities apart.” Ben Carson remains ambivalent on the subject, Senator Ted Cruz is a hardliner trying to lure Trump’s followers, and Senator Marco Rubio continues to distance himself from the reasonable postures he held in the past and now wants to deport everybody.
The Party base’s discontent makes them receptive to absurd, simplistic proposals like Trump’s, who now wants to compare his massive deportation plan to what the Bracero Program was in the past. However, he does not know that, as bad as that plan was, it allowed for the legalization of scores of people. That does not matter to him, though, or to his followers, who only have room to see immigrants as the root of all troubles.
The scenario does not look good for the undocumented or for Latino voters who believe that the immigration challenge can be dealt with from a practical point of view that takes into account the diverse elements at play. The former see growing hostility towards them as the candidates speak. The latter see how the Republicans are shutting themselves out, rallying behind unacceptable, even repugnant, ideas.