Last night marked the first GOP presidential debate of the season. Candidates
from the crowded Republican field squared off on a number of different
issues, but, as predicted by the media, national immigration policy remained
a prominent topic.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump added fuel to the fire of his prior, controversial
remarks from his campaign announcement that characterized Mexicans as
criminals. He remained adamant that stemming illegal immigration relied
on building a physical barrier between America and Mexico. "We need
to build a wall, and it has to be built quickly,” Trump said at
the debate. "And I don’t mind having a big beautiful door in
that wall so that people can come into this country legally."
In a lower-tier forum before the debate, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
also took a hard line on new arrivals to America. "We must insist
on assimilation–immigration without assimilation is an invasion,"
he said. "We need to tell folks who want to come here, they need
to come here legally. They need to learn English, adopt our values, roll
up their sleeves and get to work."
Of the candidates, Florida Governor Jeb Bush was perhaps the most progressive.
Bush has long been a supporter of maintaining a path towards legal status
for all undocumented immigrants—a point he reiterated in the debate.
"There should be a path for earned legal status for those who are
here," he told the audience. "Not amnesty—earned legal
A Critical Issue for Republicans
As MSNBC points out, immigration has been a growing concern for the GOP for years now. In
2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney garnered only 27%
of the Latino vote. Last year's Executive Orders from President Obama—which
deferred deportation for countless undocumented residents—also stirred
ire and concern throughout much of the GOP.
Still, pundits have been hard on the GOP candidate's apparent lack
of immigration policy, making last night's debate a first glimpse
of platforms that have not been fully articulated. True to his brash approach,
Trump was quick to take credit for the immigration discussion on stage.
"If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about
illegal immigration," he said. "This was not a subject that
was on anybody’s mind until I brought it up at my announcement."
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