U.S. border poli­cies di­vide Repub­li­can can­di­dates Trump’s ex­pel plan is ‘silly,’ Ka­sich says

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Im­mi­gra­tion has surged back onto the po­lit­i­cal battlefield last week af­ter Repub­li­cans ex­posed deep fis­sures on the is­sue in their de­bate Tues­day, and Democrats wasted lit­tle time in ex­ploit­ing those di­vi­sions, with Mary­land Gov. Martin O’Malley an­nounc­ing a his­toric sit-down din­ner with il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

The din­ner is be­ing or­ga­nized by ad­vo­cacy groups ea­ger to try to main­stream il­le­gal im­mi­grants, bring­ing them out of the shad­ows and to the fore­front of the 2016 cam­paigns. They said Mr. O’Malley will be making history when he dines with the Ramirez fam­ily in Austin, Texas, on Thurs­day.

Mr. O’Malley is cal­cu­lat­ing that his ap­peal can help him gain ground within the Demo­cratic pri­mary — and his cam­paign took aim at the front-run­ner, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, for us­ing the term “il­le­gal im­mi­grants” in a town hall ap­pear­ance ear­lier this week.

On the GOP side, mean­while, the bat­tle be­tween Don­ald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich over im­mi­gra­tion, which sur­faced in Tues­day night’s de­bate, con­tin­ued, with Mr. Trump vow­ing to form a “de­por­ta­tion force” to kick out more il­le­gal im­mi­grants, just as he said Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower was able to do in the 1950s with the deeply con­tro­ver­sial “Op­er­a­tion Wet­back.”

“You do it. Be­cause they’re here il­le­gally, you do it,” Mr. Trump told MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe” pro­gram.

Mr. Ka­sich, mean­while, has po­si­tioned him­self as the chief pro­po­nent within the GOP field of le­gal­iz­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants. He called Mr. Trump’s plans “silly” on Tues­day night.

“If peo­ple think that we are go­ing to ship 11 mil­lion peo­ple who are law-abid­ing, who are in this coun­try, and some­how pick them up at their house and ship them to Mex­ico, think about the fam­i­lies. Think about the chil­dren,” he said.

His re­marks drew ef­fu­sive praise from im­mi­grant rights groups, who said he was right to stand up to Mr. Trump and called on the rest of the GOP to fol­low his lead.

“Repub­li­cans risk blow­ing a huge op­por­tu­nity,” said Ali Noorani, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum Ac­tion Fund. “Do they want to be seen as the mass-de­por­ta­tion party? That’s a prob­lem that would fol­low them to the polls.”

Still, activists chided both Mr. Ka­sich and for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the other can­di­date most promi­nently call­ing for le­gal­iza­tion of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, for re­fus­ing to back Pres­i­dent Obama’s own im­mi­gra­tion plans, which in­clude a de­por­ta­tion amnesty.

Demo­cratic can­di­dates, mean­while, have no hes­i­ta­tion about em­brac­ing Mr. Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive amnesty, and all three top con­tenders have even promised to try to ex­pand it — and have crit­i­cized the fed­eral ap­peals court that is­sued a rul­ing this week block­ing the pro­gram, call­ing it il­le­gal.

Mr. O’Malley in par­tic­u­lar is bank­ing on ap­peal­ing to His­panic vot­ers and other Democrats ea­ger for a more gen­er­ous pol­icy to­ward il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

On Thurs­day he will sit down with the Ramirez fam­ily in Austin, Texas. The par­ents and four of the six chil­dren in the fam­ily are in the coun­try with­out au­tho­riza­tion — though some of those chil­dren have earned a ten­ta­tive sta­tus un­der Mr. Obama’s 2012 de­por­ta­tion amnesty for so-called Dream­ers.

A hand­ful of im­mi­grant rights groups have in­vited all of the ma­jor 2016 can­di­dates from both par­ties to at­tend sim­i­lar din­ners, say­ing it will give them a chance to hear first­hand about the strug­gles of fam­i­lies with mixed im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, and the dev­as­ta­tion that could be wrought on them if the ones in the coun­try il­le­gally were forced to re­turn to their home coun­tries.

“It’s un­fair to make de­ci­sions or stake out po­si­tions that af­fect real peo­ple’s lives with­out sit­ting down and learn­ing what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes,” said Lynn Tra­monte, deputy di­rec­tor of Amer­ica’s Voice, one of the groups spon­sor­ing the din­ners.

Mr. O’Malley is the first to ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion, which went out last week. His cam­paign did not re­ply to a re­quest for com­ment.

GOP pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Carly Fio­r­ina has al­ready de­clined, the groups said. Her cam­paign also didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on that de­ci­sion.

Mrs. Fio­r­ina’s stance tends more to­ward Mr. Ka­sich and Mr. Bush on im­mi­gra­tion. While say­ing the border must be se­cured, she has also said she would be open to grant­ing most il­le­gal im­mi­grants some form of le­gal sta­tus and grant­ing a path to cit­i­zen­ship to Dream­ers, or il­le­gal im­mi­grants brought to the U.S. as chil­dren.

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