Strife of the Party: The GOP Ignores Its Own Advice On Immigration

The Republican Party is appealing to its anti-immigrant wing to win elections, but can it do so indefinitely?

Latinos, immigration and workers' rights advocates and their supporters protest against Donald Trump and other Republican president hopefuls, outside the Republican Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, September 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO /ROBYN BECK        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Latinos, immigration and workers’ rights advocates and their supporters protest against Donald Trump and other Republican president hopefuls, outside the Republican Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, September 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO /ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

In December 2012, following a decisive loss in the presidential election, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee convened The Growth and Opportunity Project to figure out a way forward for the party. And in March 2013, they issued an astounding document known colloquially as “the autopsy report.” In its 100 pages, leading Republican strategists laid out why the GOP could no longer survive as a “whites-only” party, and that its way forward was to embrace, among other things, immigration reform.

Three years later, we can safely say that this document is all the more astounding because the party has seen both growth and opportunity by ignoring most of this advice. I say here most, because one of the report’s takeaways–albeit far down in the report and way below its exhortations to include or at the very least listen to diverse voices–was to desist being the rich man’s party. Certainly, this year’s leading contenders for the Republican nomination have spoken directly to fears of the middle and working class. They’ve just chosen to speak primarily to the white members of America’s middle and working class.

And, according to certain pollsters and political operatives, these Americans oppose immigration. Certainly, the success of this slate of Republican candidates–Trump, Cruz and until recently Rubio (who notably walked back his earlier support for immigration reform)–points to this sentiment.

On this issue, it is a question of whose polling data to believe. According to recent analysis in the conservative stalwart The National Review, 69 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of all Americans are in favor of reducing even legal immigration levels. A June 2014 Gallup poll reported that 14 percent of Republicans actually favored increasing immigration, with 41 percent of Americans supporting an overall decrease in immigration levels. In August 2015, Rasmussen Reports published the results of a national telephone survey, finding that 70 percent of likely Republican voters (and 51 percent of all voters) agree that there should be a wall or fence along the entire southern U.S. border with Mexico. In a June 2015 roundup of polling on immigration, David Bier at the libertarian Niskanen Center wrote that American support for restricting immigration has plummeted since the 1990s, and that analysis of 46 national public opinion polls show a growing, national, bi-partisan support for increasing work visas.

By Kavitha Rajagopalan for Observer.com
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