The rift in the Republican Party over immigration has been further exposed by Donald Trump’s contentious immigration policy and candid comments, with the party well aware that the divide needs to be bridged if it is to have any hope of winning the race to the White House next year.
After the crushing defeat of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by Barack Obama in the 2012 election, Republicans analyzed the situation and decided their best option was to embrace the passing of comprehensive immigration reform and particularly to find a way to enable the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants to get on a path to citizenship or at least legal status. These plans were to fall afoul in the House of Representatives, where conservatives made no secret of their displeasure. More moderate Republicans such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio, himself the son of Cuban immigrants, seemed to be the way forward for the party. It has therefore been an unexpected development that controversial real estate magnate Donald Trump, whose blunt talk and desire to crack down on illegal immigration have inspired much criticism in the media, has surged to the top of the polls and is now seen as the leading candidate to win the nomination.
The growing support for Trump has caused some rivals, such as Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and Texas senator Ted Cruz, to echo some of his policies ‒ notably his opposition to birthright citizenship ‒ and the question remains whether the swing back to the right will win the White House or cause another disastrous loss next year.