The debate over illegal immigration was not one that any of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination candidates wanted to get caught up in as the party commences the fight to take back the White House next year. The attempt to cross the divide between appealing to traditional conservative voters and embracing Latino voters, whose voting influence is growing, is a difficult one, and it was only made worse by the recent controversy surrounding Donald Trump.
Other Republican presidential nomination contenders have found themselves affected by the damage that Trump’s comments have caused to the Republican Party; however, with the controversy continuing to rage, more and more of them have come out swinging by trying to make it clear that Trump’s opinions are not shared by themselves or the party as a whole.
Some, such as Marco Rubio, have restricted themselves to paper statements; however, Jeb Bush has not been so shy, strongly criticizing Trump’s comments about Mexico sending criminals and rapists to the United States. Many Latino voters have been infuriated by the remarks, which brought back memories of the calls for “self-deportation” of undocumented immigrants by 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which proved disastrous for his election chances.
“We’ve gone from 44% to 29% among Hispanic voters, for a reason,” Republican senator Lindsey Graham told CNN. “You’ll never convince me that it hasn’t been about the way that we’ve handled this issue.”