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Questions About Why Rubio Is So Soft On Immigrants”: The Irony In Marco Rubio And Ted Cruz’s Argument Over “Amnesty”

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are for now the only real candidates with a chance to become the Republican nominee for president (granting that Donald Trump, whatever his chances, is an utterly unreal candidate), and to Rubio’s chagrin, they are engaged in a dispute over immigration that grows progressively more venomous.

This complex policy challenge has been reduced to the question of which of them is more fervently opposed to “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, but the debate obscures an odd fact. Though Cruz is getting the better of the argument, the substance of Rubio’s position on the issue—which he is now desperately trying to justify—is actually more popular with Republican voters. But in this atmosphere, when fear and resentment are the order of the day, even that isn’t enough to help him.

A brief bit of background. In 2013, Rubio joined with a bipartisan group of senators called the Gang of Eight to write a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed the Senate but died in the House. Along with increasing border security and beefing up the E-Verify system through which employers check their employees’ immigration status, it provided for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But it was an extremely lengthy path. They would have to register, pay a fine, pass a background check, and at that point they would be granted provisional legal status. After waiting ten years, paying another fine, and showing that they had learned English, they could apply for a green card. Then if they got the green card, they could apply for citizenship three years after that. So it could be fifteen years or more before someone who is currently an undocumented immigrant became a citizen.

As for Ted Cruz’s part, he offered an amendment at the time stripping out the path to citizenship but allowing undocumented immigrants to get work permits. Rubio charges that this means Cruz supported legal status for the undocumented (horrors!), while Cruz says that his amendment was just a poison pill meant to sabotage the bill.

While Rubio has backed away from the bill—he now says he learned that comprehensive reform is impossible, and the answer is to do it piece by piece, with the enforcement pieces coming first—he still says he supports an eventual path to citizenship. But he’s always careful to stress how long it would be before that would even be discussed, much less implemented.

So right now, Rubio is defensively answering all kinds of questions about why he’s so soft on immigrants, while Cruz is the one attacking (and Rubio’s counter that Cruz is kind of an amnesty supporter too has fallen short). Yet Rubio’s position on the path to citizenship question—yes, but after a lengthy process—is quite popular within the party.

It matters a lot how you ask the question, but polling shows that, as a group, Republican voters are perfectly open to letting undocumented immigrants stay in the United States. When Pew asked recently if undocumented immigrants who “meet certain requirements” should be allowed to say, 66 percent of Republicans say yes, with 37 percent supporting citizenship and 28 percent supporting permanent residency.

But the more specific you make the question, the more open Republicans are to citizenship. When pollsters have asked whether undocumented immigrants should be able to apply for citizenship if they pay fines and learn English, clear majorities of Republicans say yes: 72 percent in a January 2014 CNN poll; 69 percent in an October 2013 CBS poll; 63 percent in a February 2013 Fox poll (those and others are collected here).

Those results demonstrate that if you can assure people—even Republicans—that undocumented immigrants will pay a price and assimilate, they have no problem with a path to citizenship. And that’s exactly what the Gang of Eight bill did.

So why isn’t Rubio winning on this issue? One reason is that his position is complex, while Cruz’s position is a rather simpler “He loves amnesty!”—and simpler messages usually prevail. Another reason is that the candidates aren’t actually appealing to all Republican voters, but the somewhat smaller and more conservative group that will actually vote in primaries. And finally, Donald Trump’s campaign, not to mention the general atmosphere of fear stirred up by the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, has made anything resembling rational discussion on this issue all but impossible. Ted Cruz is capitalizing on that atmosphere with an enthusiasm bordering on the gleeful; he’s now airing an ad claiming that the Gang of Eight bill “would have given Obama the authority to admit Syrian refugees, including ISIS terrorists. That’s just wrong.” It should go without saying that his claim is absolutely ludicrous.

It’s possible that each passing day in which Donald Trump is on TV talking about border walls and excluding Muslims has the effect of nudging the Republican electorate to the right on anything that has to do with foreigners. But the polling results of the last few years show that Republicans are not a monolith, and there should be a market for a position like Rubio’s.

There’s another truth we should acknowledge in this debate. What a President Cruz would actually do on immigration is almost identical to what a President Rubio would do: not much. The last few years have proven that the Republican House has no appetite for comprehensive reform, no matter what the circumstances. And today’s GOP caucus is even more conservative than it was in 2013, after the sweep of 2014 brought in a whole new class of ultra-right members. Most Republicans hail from safe Republican districts, where they fear only a challenge from the right, so there’s no reason why they’d embrace comprehensive reform. The Republican Party itself may want to reach out to Hispanic voters, but your average Republican member of Congress has little reason to; indeed, all his interests run toward vehement opposition.

And if a Republican does somehow win the presidency, the urgency in demonstrating any goodwill toward Hispanics will be gone. So what will happen? The Republican Congress will pass a bill or two hiring more Border Patrol and ICE agents and building some more fences, the Republican president will sign those bills, and they’ll all call it a day—whether the public, including even Republican voters, would favor a path to citizenship or not.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | Amnesty, Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Hillary Clinton Has Already Crushed Republicans On Immigration”: It’s Heads She Wins And Tails They Lose, Regardless Of What They Do

You can question Hillary Clinton’s political scruples. But don’t doubt her political smarts.

There is no better proof of either quality than her U-turn decision last week to go all out in embracing amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Clinton’s gambit is a major flip-flop — one that will put Republicans in a bind that they’ll have a hard time extricating themselves from. It’s heads she wins and tails they lose, regardless of what they do.

Clinton stunned everyone — even Latino activists — when she boldly called for a “path to full and equal citizenship” for all of the roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. Speaking at a gathering of handpicked young immigrants in a high school in Nevada, a Latino-heavy swing state, she rejected the notion of a mere path to legalization — like the sort Jeb Bush and some of the more immigrant-friendly Republicans have skittishly backed. “That’s code for second-class status,” Clinton declared. She promised to go much further than even President Obama’s recent executive action and “defer” deportation proceedings not only against some illegal immigrants, but virtually all of them, while working toward comprehensive immigration reform that included citizenship.

This was a remarkable shift for someone who has not only maintained a studious silence for months about Obama’s executive action, but also previously opposed drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. Indeed, her flip is so dramatic that instead of raising questions about her credibility, it has changed the conversation so much that we’re immediately asking what Republicans need to do to catch up.

No doubt her proposal, which she offered no realistic plan for pushing through an unfriendly Congress, is designed to deflect attention from “Emailgate” and any number of other scandals that might yet derail her candidacy. But that’s not all its aimed at doing.

Its chief purpose is to compound what pollster Whit Ayres calls the GOP’s “daunting demographic challenge” in 2016.

Ayers points out that Mitt Romney got 59 percent of the white vote in 2012, the highest percentage of any Republican challenging an incumbent president, and still lost because he got only 18 percent of the overall minority vote and 27 percent of the Latino vote. However, the white share of the national electorate is on track to drop by three percentage points (from 72 percent in 2012 to 69 percent in 2016) — and the minority share, likewise, to rise by the same amount.

This means that the GOP candidate has to do one of two things to win against Clinton: Improve his or her performance with whites to about 65 percent, a feat only Ronald Reagan has accomplished in the last 50 years, or boost his or her minority vote to 30 percent, which would require drawing about 45 percent of the Latino vote — as George W. Bush did.

But here’s the thing: While Democrats’ white and minority supporters are united on the issue of immigration (or at least not hopelessly divided), the GOP’s are not. This means that the more Republicans question and condemn Clinton’s support for “amnesty,” the more they’ll dig themselves in a hole with Latinos and make her more popular. On the other hand, it they stay mute — which is what most of them have done (with the exception of Lindsey Graham) — they’ll risk alienating the anti-amnesty white base that they have spent the last decade riling up.

In other words, if Republicans fight Hillary’s call for amnesty, they’ll lose Latinos, which will benefit Hillary. But if they don’t, they’ll lose whites, which will also benefit Hillary.

The dilemma is particularly acute for Jeb Bush, whose broad support for immigration (along with his Mexican-American wife and Spanish fluency) has made him perhaps the best-placed Republican to do well among Latinos. Yet even he doesn’t come anywhere close to the 45 percent mark yet. He has been rather equivocal in his support for a path to citizenship and has been assuring GOP voters that whatever course he charts for the undocumented, it will require them to jump through all kinds of hoops, such as paying fines and passing English tests and possibly “touching back” to their home country. Still, a recent Bloomberg poll found that 41 percent of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, far from the most restrictionist state in the country, considered his immigration views a “deal-killer.”

By positioning herself as even more pro-immigration than the most pro-immigration GOP candidate — and potentially picking as her running mate Julian Castro, secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the former mayor of San Antonio who is wildly popular with Latinos — she will basically lock up the Latino vote. This will mean that the Republican nominee, even Jeb Bush, would have to go whole-hog for the white vote by hardening his or her opposition to amnesty and immigration, further cementing the GOP’s reputation as the anti-minority, white man’s party.

Some pundits pooh-pooh this problem, noting that like all voters, Latinos list jobs and the economy as their top concerns, not immigration. That’s true. But, also like all voters, Latinos won’t put their economic faith in someone they don’t trust politically. They will have much more confidence in Clinton solving those problems, not because they necessarily buy into her liberal tax-and-spend plans, but because they have more confidence in her personally, thanks to her appeal for them on immigration issues.

What’s more, life will get only more miserable for Republicans once Clinton enters the White House and makes comprehensive immigration reform her signature issue. That’s because if Republicans go along with her plans to extend full-fledged amnesty, they will basically be handing her a whole new block of Democratic voters. But if they don’t, Democrats will be able to milk this issue in subsequent elections, when the electorate is even more Latino.

Regardless of where one stands on the merits of the issue, the political reality is this: Republicans’ harsh anti-immigration rhetoric has left them no good options. They have created their own vulnerability. And Hillary Clinton has just zeroed in on it.

 

By: Shikha Dalmia, The Week, May 22, 2015

May 23, 2015 Posted by | Amnesty, Hillary Clinton, Immigration | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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