During the final GOP public debate of 2015, Republican candidates continued articulating what they would do on immigration if they were commander-in-chief. Many of the candidates have already outlined their views on their campaign websites or through public statements, including Trump, Cruz, Bush, Paul, Carson and Fiorina.
At the Tuesday debate, additional information emerged including the news that Ted Cruz has officially adopted “attrition through enforcement“ or self-deportation as his solution to our outdated immigration system. This is the same immigration policy Mitt Romney endorsed during his failed Presidential bid. Attrition through enforcement is the idea that if we create policies and conditions that are hostile towards immigrants, they will pick up and leave. In adopting this policy, Cruz is ignoring the societal, economic, and political consequences of such a proposal. He’s also ignoring leaders in his own party who discredited adopting anti-immigrant policies as an effective way of getting elected.
In addition, Marco Rubio defended his past support for comprehensive immigration reform, but confirmed that he no longer is endorsing a comprehensive approach, and instead is urging a piecemeal approach, with enforcement measures taken up first. He explained that the public must first be convinced that immigration is “under control” before the U.S. can begin opening up the channels to legal status for the millions in America without it.
Rubio said during the debate:
“I am personally open after all of that has happened and after ten years in that probationary status where all they have is a work permit, I personally am open to allowing people to apply for a green card. That may not be a majority position in my party. But that’s down the road. You can’t even begin that process until you prove to people, not just pass a law that says you’re going to bring illegal immigration under control. You’re going to have to do it and prove to people that it is working.”
On the topic of refugees, particularly those from the Middle East, the GOP has hardened its position. In general, the candidates ignored the fact that refugees currently undergo extensive background checks before being permitted to enter and that they are the most-screened group of migrants entering the United States.
Senator Ted Cruz also erroneously stated that the U.S. is allowing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to this country despite the head of the FBI warning Congress that they cannot vet those refugees. CNN fact checkers noted:
“it’s incorrect to imply that the FBI said that it can’t vet Syrian refugees. Refugees that come to the U.S. undergo several screenings, such as biographic checks and in-person interviews, which involve multiple federal intelligence and security agencies. Syrian refugees in particular go through additional screening, called the Syria Enhanced Review process. That process uses biographical information collected from the U.N. refugee agency to determine whether an applicant needs to go through a fraud or national security unit, which then conducts individualized research on each applicant’s story and records. Syrian refugee applications can take much longer to process than the average case processing time of 18 to 24 months. Mark Toner, a deputy State Department spokesman, recently called the refugee vetting process, ‘the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.’”
The vast majority of discussion in the GOP debate characterized immigrants and refugees as a threat to public safety. This was a significant departure from the discussion taking place around these same groups at the last Democratic debate. It’s unlikely this will go unnoticed by the American electorate.