Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion steady

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Democrats have be­come far more open to le­gal­iz­ing illegal im­mi­grants over the last decade, while Repub­li­cans re­main adamantly op­posed, ac­cord­ing to ex­ten­sive new polling by the Chicago Coun­cil on Global Af­fairs that helps ex­plain the rise of busi­ness­man Don­ald Trump within the GOP pres­i­den­tial field and the dim hopes for get­ting any­thing done in Congress.

Lit­tle more than a decade ago, vot­ers in both par­ties gen­er­ally agreed that unchecked immigration was a sig­nif­i­cant threat to U.S. vi­tal in­ter­ests — with Democrats ac­tu­ally top­ping Repub­li­cans in that belief, 63 per­cent to 58 per­cent. Now, how­ever, the par­ties di­verge wildly, with 63 per­cent of Repub­li­cans say­ing immigration is a threat, while just 29 per­cent of Democrats rate it so.

In­de­pen­dents are spot in the mid­dle, with 46 per­cent see­ing immigration as a threat.

“To­day, the par­ti­san gaps be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats on illegal immigration are at record lev­els,” the Chicago Coun­cil said. “Two-thirds of Repub­li­cans, but only one-third of Democrats, say that con­trol­ling and re­duc­ing illegal immigration is a very im­por­tant goal of U.S. for­eign pol­icy.”

Over­all, Democrats share many of the same for­eign pol­icy goals as vot­ers who iden­tify with the GOP or who state they are in­de­pen­dent, the Chicago Coun­cil found, rang­ing from the threat from rad­i­cal Is­lam to the spread of nu­clear weapons.

But the two par­ties split rad­i­cally on immigration and global warm­ing, where Democrats are far more likely to say the U.S. must change, even if it means ma­jor costs to the gov­ern­ment and econ­omy: 56 per­cent of Democrats said cli­mate change is se­ri­ous and big steps are needed, while just 12 per­cent of Repub­li­cans agreed.

In­deed, Democrats place cli­mate change as a top-five threat to the U.S., while Repub­li­cans ranked it dead last out of 20 pos­si­ble threats, ac­cord­ing to the poll, which sur­veyed 2,034 adults be­tween May 28 and June 17.

The chang­ing at­ti­tudes on immigration trace back to the be­gin­ning of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ten­ure in of­fice.

Un­der Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, a Demo­crat who over­saw the stiffest immigration poli­cies in mod­ern pol­i­tics, the par­ties gen­er­ally agreed that mass immigration was a threat to U.S. in­ter­ests — and Democrats were even slightly more staunch in that view, at 58 per­cent to 56 per­cent for the GOP. But those at­ti­tudes changed, iron­i­cally, un­der Mr. Bush, who pushed for more le­niency for illegal im­mi­grants.

Democrats ap­peared to side with Mr. Bush, while his own GOP loy­al­ists split from him. The di­vide has only deep­ened un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, who has used the is­sue as a po­lit­i­cal wedge, urg­ing His­panic vot­ers to pun­ish Repub­li­cans for not em­brac­ing le­gal­iza­tion.

But that’s an un­pop­u­lar opin­ion within Repub­li­can cir­cles, where 45 per­cent said illegal im­mi­grants should be forced to leave the coun­try, and another 16 per­cent said they can stay but should never be al­lowed to ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship. By con­trast, the vast ma­jor­ity of Democrats say they should be al­lowed to stay and be­come cit­i­zens, ei­ther im­me­di­ately or af­ter they pay a penalty and “wait a few years.”

The pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates mir­ror that di­vide.

Demo­cratic can­di­dates are com­pet­ing to be the most gen­er­ous to­ward illegal im­mi­grants, with sev­eral of them vow­ing to go be­yond Mr. Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions and grant a de­por­ta­tion amnesty to even more than the 5 mil­lion this cur­rent White House has tried to in­clude in its poli­cies.

Repub­li­can can­di­dates, mean­while, are spar­ring over whether illegal im­mi­grants should be granted any le­gal sta­tus at all, even if it does fall short of a spe­cial new path­way to cit­i­zen­ship.

Amer­ica’s Voice, a lead­ing proim­mi­grant ad­vo­cacy group, said the Repub­li­can can­di­dates’ rhetoric, and par­tic­u­larly that of Mr. Trump, is lead­ing to a poi­sonous at­mos­phere for im­mi­grants.

“While none of the other con­tenders on the de­bate stage have fully em­braced Trump’s na­tivist mass-ex­pul­sion plat­form, Repub­li­can can­di­date af­ter Repub­li­can can­di­date is nonethe­less lurch­ing to the right on immigration, and em­brac­ing patently ridicu­lous and of­fen­sive immigration poli­cies,” the group said in a memo ahead of Wed­nes­day’s GOP pres­i­den­tial de­bate.

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