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“Platitudes And Rhetorical Nonsense”: How Trump Has Managed To Dumb Down The Immigration Debate

New evidence sugggests Donald Trump’s ignorant and devisive rhetoric on immigration parallels the political discourse on Twitter, suggesting that the bloviating of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee may have an impact on how the immigration debate unfolds.

In collaboration with MIT Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social MachinesFusion explored a correlation between Trump’s campaign and an increase in Twitter discussions around aspects of the immigration debate, including mass deportation and Trump’s promise to build a “great wall” along the southern border of the United States.

Meanwhile, during that same period, mentions of comprehensive immigration reform fell during Trump’s political rise. The findings suggest Trump is having a direct impact on the immigration debate, ultimately turning people’s attention away from practical, bipartisan solutions and towards platitudes and rhetorical nonsense.

Analyzing a data plot comparing Twitter mentions of offering undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship with Trump’s promise to build a wall, the researchers found a significant decrease in comprehensive immigration reform between May and July 2015, directly correlating with Trump’s announcement on June 16, 2015, that he would seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Talk of comprehensive immigration reform peaked in 2013 after the House of Representatives failed to pass the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which was intended to “modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here.”

A year later, the immigration debate once again focused on providing a pathway to citizenship; in November 2014, President Obama issued several executive actions on immigration, offering deportation relief to five million undocumented immigrants. The Obama administration is currently fighting for those reforms in the Supreme Court.

Prior to Trump entering the race, Fusion reports “28 percent of election-related Twitter chatter about immigration focused on an idea of a pathway to citizenship,” making it the most-discussed immigration-related topic on the popular social networking service. Likewise, less than two percent of immigration-related discussions on Twitter focused on building a wall.

But in July 2015, the conversation flipped, with talk of illegal immigrants, mass deportation and building a southern border wall dominating the political discourse, while comprehensive immigration reform and pathways to citizenship all but disappeared from the Twitter lexicon.

Twitter mentions of mass deportation spiked in August 2015, after Trump promised he would enact a “deportation force” to send back 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living int he United States. As Fusion reports, “in September, [mass deportation] even topped the chart briefly as the most-discussed election-related immigration topic.”

Similarly, as Trump’s pro-wall rhetoric increasingly dominated politics in late 2015, 18 percent of all immigration talk on Twitter focused on building a southern border wall, making it the most discussed immigration topic on Twitter. Meanwhile, only 6 percent of immigration-related mentions discussed a pathway to citizenship.

And the trend continues even as the remaining candidates pivot towards the general election; in May, MIT’s Media Lab recorded 22 percent of immigration-related policy talk on Twitter focuses on the wall, while only 2 percent mentions comprehensive immigration policies, including a pathway to citizenship.

It’s clear Trump’s haranguing about building a wall and kicking out 11 million people resonates with the Twitter users, successfully dominating the political conversation, while sensible solutions fall to the wayside. As the election continues, it remains to be seen whether a comprehensive, bipartisan solution can once again ignite interest on social media, or if Trump’s reductive, anti-immigrant policies continue to monopolize the debate.

 

By: Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet, June 17, 2016

June 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigration Reform, Social Media | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ted Cruz’s ‘Flat Out Lie’ On Immigration”: How Do You Say Hypocrite In Spanish? Do You Know? It’s Ted Cruz

For Latino Republicans who have known Ted Cruz over the last 15 years, the candidate stumping across the country on an anti-immigration platform is not the rising talent they once worked with on the George W. Bush campaign, in the Bush administration, and then as Texas Solicitor General.

The Ted Cruz of those years was a whip-smart and audaciously ambitious lawyer who lent his considerable intellectual heft to the policies many Latino Republicans cared most about, including immigration reform. But during a CNN debate in December, as Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio clashed over Cruz’s past positions on offering legal status to undocumented immigrants, Cruz said definitively, “I’ve never supported legalization, I do not intend to support it.”

Weeks later, Cruz doubled down, explaining to Fox News’ Bret Baier that he tried to amend the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill not to pass it, but to doom it to defeat. “Bret, you’ve been around Washington long enough, you know how to defeat bad legislation.”

And with that, Cruz’s bridge back to his former colleagues in Latino Republican circles began to burn.

“It’s just a flat out lie. Period,” said Robert De Posada. “There’s just no truth behind it.”

De Posada is a former Director of Hispanic Affairs for the RNC and founder of the Latino Coalition, a conservative Latino organization that worked with the Bush administration unsuccessfully to pass immigration reform. “My criticism is that Cruz can say, ‘Things have changed and I’ve changed my position.’ But don’t sit here and flat out lie that you have never been for legalization when the facts are very clear.”

The facts, according to De Posada and several Republicans who worked with Cruz in Washington and Texas, are that in Cruz’s past work for Bush and later as a board member of the Washington-based Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute, Cruz helped craft policies to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and pursue legal status.

None of those efforts included granting automatic amnesty to undocumented workers, but it is clear in the minds of his former colleagues that finding a way to offer immigrants a way to remain in the United States and gain legal status was central to the work Cruz did.

A former Bush administration official who worked with Cruz during the 2000 campaign and later as a part of an interdepartmental White House working group on immigration remembered Cruz as an aggressive member of the teams tasked with creating a framework to pass Bush’s pro-immigration agenda. The position Cruz holds today was not in play in those years, the official said, in sometimes deeply personal terms.

“How do you say hypocrite in Spanish? Do you know? It’s Ted Cruz,” the former official said. “To know Ted is to hate Ted.”

The official described Cruz’s role on the Bush immigration agenda as working as a liaison between the office of public liaison and the White House’s policy shop. “He wanted to bring immigrants out of the shadows,” the official said. “That’s changed since the campaign and changed since the White House days. But of course it has. If it suits Ted, he’s for it. If it doesn’t, he’s against it.”

“It’s a disappointment,” said the official, who, like many of the people interviewed for this piece, referenced Cruz’s natural intelligence. “I think Ted could do a lot of good if he had a soul.”

But before the White House, Cruz worked in Texas as a policy adviser for the Bush presidential campaign, including on Bush’s plans for immigration reform.

When Charles Foster, a prominent Houston immigration lawyer, was tapped to draft Bush’s plan, he said he was told the campaign had a team of bright young lawyers to work with him. “One of them, named Ted Cruz, had in his bailiwick of issues immigration and he would be my contact with the campaign,” Foster said.

Together, Foster and Cruz worked for nine months drafting what would become the immigration principles of the Bush campaign and eventually the White House. The plan would not include amnesty like Ronald Reagan’s blanket legalization program, which immediately put undocumented immigrants in line for citizenship. But Bush would push for a path to legal status, an aggressive temporary worker program, and a requirement that undocumented workers who stayed in the United States would go to the back of the line for citizenship.

Foster remembers Cruz as a “very hands on” professional who never raised objections to the policies. “I assumed Ted was supportive of Gov. Bush’s positions, but I honestly can’t remember asking Ted if he agreed with the position and personally supported it. I assume he did, but we were like lawyers representing the interests of our client.”

After the campaign and two years in the Bush administration, Cruz moved home to Texas to become the state’s Solicitor General in 2003. Once in Texas, he joined the board of advisers for HAPI, a group of Latino conservatives that included George P. Bush, former members of Congress, and multiple veterans of the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations.

While Cruz was a member of the board and its policy committee, HAPI advocated conservative positions to an array of issues, including its opposition to both climate change legislation and the Affordable Care Act. On immigration, HAPI strongly advocated for a path to legalization, including President Bush’s principles for immigration reform, as well as the 2006 McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill.

“It’s just bullshit,” said a former member of the HAPI when asked about Cruz’s contention that he never supported legalization. “That’s what pisses us all off. Don’t throw us under the bus for legalization and not take on the nativists and the crazies when you wrote the language. Stand for something.”

The former HAPI board member, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely, described Cruz as a fully engaged member of the group. Cruz co-chaired a 2005 event featuring Gov. Rick Perry and served as a keynote speaker for two of the group’s events. And because of Cruz’s legal expertise, board members said they relied on him to do the first draft of policy positions, including HAPI’s support for immigration reform. When he ran for Senate in 2012, HAPI hosted a fundraiser to support his candidacy.

In the 2012 campaign for Senate, Cruz’s role at HAPI became the subject of a bitter disagreement between Cruz and David Dewhurst, then the lieutenant governor of Texas and Cruz’s opponent in the Senate primary race. The Dewhurst campaign accused Cruz of “leading two organizations that support amnesty,” a position that neither HAPI nor the other group ever supported. But members of HAPI’s board insist that legalization for undocumented immigrants was always unequivocally a part of its platform.

HAPI no longer exists, but Cruz has gone on to become its most famous and potentially most powerful former member, an end to the story that many of his fellow Latino Republicans lament.

“When he went so far as to say he’s never been for legalizing, that’s where he crossed the line and lost people like me,” said Robert De Posada. “It’s a character issue where a lot of us are just like, ‘Um, no.’”

 

By: Patricia Murphy, The Daily Beast, January 28, 2016

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pressure Pushes Christie Into Self-Deportation Camp”: In A Constant State Of Fear About Bothering Right-Wing Activists

In New Jersey, gun ownership is already illegal if you’ve been convicted of any number of serious crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, and sexual assault. State lawmakers passed legislation to expand the list to include other serious crimes, including carjacking, gang criminality, and making terroristic threats.

The bill passed the state House and state Senate unanimously. As Rachel noted on the show last night, Gov. Chris Christie (R) rejected it anyway, apparently because he’s running for president – and he’s living in a constant state of fear about bothering right-wing activists.

And that’s not all. The Republican governor also shared some new thoughts yesterday about his approach to federal immigration policy. NBC News reported:

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie is the latest Republican candidate to support “self-deportation” for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner published Monday, Christie was asked if he supported “attrition through enforcement.”

“I think that would be the practical effect of it, yes,” Christie said in response to a question about his support for E-verify, a workplace enforcement program.

The full transcript of Christie’s conversation with the Washington Examiner’s Byron York is online here.

Note, the governor didn’t literally use the phrase “self-deportation,” but he did endorse a description of what such an approach would entail. Christie specifically expressed support for a system that would “encourage” undocumented immigrants “to leave on their own.”

When York asked, “So you would envision something like what Ted Cruz has called ‘attrition through enforcement’?” Christie responded, “I think that would be the practical effect of it, yes.”

Nearly four years after President Obama defeated Mitt Romney among Latino voters, 71% to 27%, Republicans still haven’t changed their posture.

Keep in mind, in 2010, Christie said he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. As recently as April 2015, Christie told an audience at the Conference of the Americas, “I’m not someone who believes that folks who have come here in that status [illegally] are going to engage in self-deportation.”

It’s a genuine shame to see what a Republican primary can do to some people.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 20, 2016

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Chris Christie, Immigration, Self Deportation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Dead End On Immigration”: GOP Candidate Don’t Know The Issues, Just Relying On High-Altitude Slogans

The debate over immigration has become a huge problem for the GOP.

Donald Trump started things off earlier this year when he promised mass deportations for those who had entered the country illegally, after building a wall on the southern border and “making Mexico pay for it.” Trump later softened his position, promising to allow “the good ones” to re-enter the U.S. immediately, presumably ahead of those already waiting in line for legal entry. His actual policy proposal makes no mention of mass deportation at all; the only reference to deportation in Trump’s position paper is to “illegal aliens in gangs” such as MS-13. But like many of Trump’s statements, the policy matters much less than venting the frustration felt by voters.

Long ago, the 9/11 Commission declared the southern border (and the northern border as well) a national security risk in our new age of radical Islamist terrorism. The report also warned about serious flaws in the management of visas, an issue raised once again by the failure to vet one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, who entered the U.S. on a K-1 “fiancé” visa in July 2014. That track record of failure has Americans understandably angry about our impasse on immigration policy, and Trump’s simplistic and broad pronouncements both reflect and empower those voters.

But if Trump offers simplistic slogans, then the rest of the Republican presidential field gets too cute by half on immigration policy. For the last couple of weeks, the debate apart from Trump has focused on the semantics of “legalization” and whether it amounts to amnesty.

All Republican candidates in this cycle agree that the first steps on immigration policy are to build a wall and overhaul the visa program, both long overdue after the 9/11 Commission warnings in 2005. Without that sequencing, the U.S. risks exacerbating its illegal immigration problem in the short and long term, as we saw after the 1986 compromise that left border and visa security practically unchanged. When those first goals are accomplished, the question of how to deal with the undocumented immigrants remaining in the U.S. — perhaps 11 million or more — becomes acute. This debate over their final status erupted in a clash of claims between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio at last week’s debate.

Cruz and Rubio have emerged from the pack to become serious challengers to Trump, and both are jockeying to be his prime alternative. In many ways, the two senators are similar in policy, but Cruz opposed Rubio’s “Gang of Eight” effort in 2013 to create a bipartisan solution to immigration reform. Cruz latched onto the process by which longstanding immigrants here illegally would gain legal status in the U.S., and declared that he “did not intend” to allow legalization. Rubio then accused Cruz of changing his position, highlighting an amendment Cruz had offered to the Gang of Eight bill that would have blocked citizenship but not legal-resident status. Ever since, the two have jousted over the parsing of the language in the bill and public statements each has made.

This spat, like Trump’s statements, acts more as a signal of muscularity on immigration than a serious policy debate. Cruz wants to gain credit for being more serious than Trump but more assertive and trustworthy than Rubio, while Rubio wants to undermine trust in Cruz to jump over him to challenge Trump. A serious policy debate, though, would ask whether legalization alone would work, let alone refusing it.

Let’s start with Cruz’s position. Denying a path to legal status would eliminate the incentives that would drive illegal immigrants to self-identify, which would allow the U.S. to run background checks and reduce the scope of national-security efforts to find potential troublemakers. In fact, that position gains nothing, and looks more like Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” position that got roundly rejected in 2012. It would leave millions in a black-market status, perpetuating an underclass that would increase the issues immigration reform would seek to reduce, especially crime and security. In that sense, Trump’s statements are more internally coherent than Cruz’s — and perhaps as pragmatic.

What about legalization without naturalization? That does create incentives to come out of the shadows, and proposals to deny broad classes of the population an option for naturalization do have some precedent. However, this also cuts across conservative demands for assimilation over obsessive multiculturalism, which is important both culturally and politically. Legalization without an eventual path to citizenship would provide a powerful disincentive to assimilation. In the long run, it would also be almost impossible to sustain politically, especially as that population becomes much more mainstream.

Also missing from this discussion is the foreign-policy aspects for immigration, especially over the long term. Thanks to the sharp increase in focus on ISIS in the GOP primaries, we have had some debate on how best to incentivize Middle East regimes to deal with the problem. However, we have had no discussion at all on how prospective presidents would do the same with Mexico and Central American nations to reduce the flow of economic refugees into the U.S. How do we put pressure on these nations to reform their economies, their governments, and their use of capital to create environments where their people have reasons to stay put? The only mention at all in this direction has come from Trump and his insistence that he’ll get Mexico to pay for our border wall.

The lack of substantive discussion on immigration highlights the fact that there are no easy answers, no simplistic solutions. People of integrity and principle on all sides have legitimate reasons for their positions, be it an adherence to the rule of law or the need to welcome the poor and downtrodden. Voters are not angry because those positions have not been amply represented; they’re angry because few are looking for pragmatic and systemic solutions rather than talking points and slogans, and that Washington has had more than a decade and is still no closer to a solution.

The next Republican nominee had better start working on the former and dispensing with the latter. Signaling might make sense in a primary where little real difference exists between the candidates. In a general election, voters will want solutions and a sense that a candidate knows the issues rather than relies on high-altitude slogans. And that applies to more issues than just immigration.

 

By: Edward Morrissey, The Week, December 22, 2015

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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