On border, Trump drags GOP to edge
Immigration stance lacks mass appeal
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s aggressively tough speech on immigration buried the notion that he planned to pivot away from the posture that got him the Republican nomination to a gentler position tailored for more moderate general election voters, Republicans included.
It also may have buried his party’s strategy for longterm survival: the effort to appeal to the Latino and Asian voters who are replacing the waning numbers of white voters on whom the GOP has long depended.
Trump’s Wednesday night remarks made clear that he intends to try to win the presidency with the group that won him the nomination — mostly male, white voters who feel stressed by the economy, the rapid changes in American society or both — in defiance of fears even among other Republicans that such a base is not big enough to secure the White House.
Mike Madrid, a California GOP strategist who has sought to broaden the party’s reach among nonwhite voters, declared himself “stunned” at Trump’s approach.
“We’re witnessing the end of the party,” he said.
On Wednesday night, Trump reiterated his call for a giant wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He said that his immediate priority as president would be deporting those immigrants in the U.S. illegally who are involved in crimes but also asserted that no one in the country without proper documents would be outside the reach of deportation officers. He also expanded on a plan to curb legal immigration. Children drag Donald Trump pinatas as they urge California Latinos to vote against him.
Trump referred repeatedly to “criminal aliens” — words that are taken as a slap by many Latinos — and painted a world in which violent hordes were streaming over the border to target Americans. (Both crime and immigration levels remain near historic lows.)
Earlier in the day, during a quick visit with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump had praised Latino immigrants as “spectacular” and “hard-working.” But by Wednesday night he was casting them and other immigrants as something more akin to a blight.
The views Trump expressed have an intense appeal among his most loyal supporters but not among a majority of rank-and-file Republicans.
Since 2013, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, majorities of both Republicans and Democrats have said those here illegally should be able to stay under some conditions. Overall, 74 percent of Americans in a recent Pew survey said they favored allowing such immigrants legal protection. Only 23 percent disagreed.
Recently, however, Republican leaders, concerned about political retaliation from immigration opponents, have drawn a more conservative line than those sentiments might suggest. Their party already has suffered for it.
President George W. Bush, in his 2004 re-election campaign, won the support of 40 percent of Latino voters, according to exit surveys. Eight years later, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who suggested Latinos should “self-deport,” won 27 percent.
Worse yet for Republicans, as their numbers have slumped among Latinos — and Asians, who vote similarly and are likewise interested in immigration policy — the sizes of those groups have grown.
A Pew study of statewide