Donald Trump's horrific anti-immigrant remarks during his presidential launch included the claim that Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists." Since then, the response -- from immigration groups to major corporations to anyone with any sense of decency -- has been strong criticism of Trump's racist remarks. Univision Network was one of the first to fire Trump, cutting off all business ties with him. NBC followed suit, and Macy's did too.
One Republican candidate, George Pataki, strongly denounced Trump and challenged his fellow Republican candidates to join him. The rest of the Republican field doesn't seem to have gotten the message that Donald Trump's words must be condemned. For the most part, GOP 2016 presidential contenders have stayed silent, refusing to take any active stance against Trump's bigoted comments. Only when asked 11 days after Trump's speech did Jeb Bush say that he doesn't agree with Trump. Rand Paul literally walked away from the question yesterday. Ted Cruz actually said he thinks Trump is "terrific."
Anyone who aspires to our nation's highest office should have spoken up strongly against his remarks immediately, without hesitation. It shouldn't be a surprise, though, that the major Republican presidential candidates did not. They didn't want to ruffle the feathers of their party's anti-immigrant base by speaking out against any anti-immigrant rhetoric, even rhetoric as incendiary as Trump's.
Sadly, Trump is gaining ground in the polls: He's in second place in the latest New Hampshire and Iowa polls. It's rhetoric from people like Trump that revs up that anti-immigrant Republican base, but it's the anti-immigrant policies of the entire Republican Party that fuel the fire. Lacking policies that are fundamentally different from Trump's, Republican candidates fell to their usual silence, allowing Trump to spout his anti-immigrant rhetoric with no check from the rest of the GOP.
A look at the immigration policies of the Republican presidential candidates and of the Republican Party shows that while rhetoric may differ within the party, policy differences are few and far between. The Republican Party is an anti-immigrant party, and GOP candidates are falling in line to promote anti-immigrant policies.
In the 2016 campaign, some will be quick to note that candidates with ties to the Latino community, namely Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, are trying to define themselves as different from the rest. However, while Marco Rubio briefly supported comprehensive immigration reform, he scurried back to the tea party and now believes that his work for comprehensive immigration reform was a mistake altogether. Jeb Bush says he's willing to stand up to his party, but relegating undocumented immigrants to a second-class "legal status" and calling citizenship an "undeserving reward" for undocumented people is sadly in line with what Donald Trump and most of the rest of the Republican Party is saying.
All of the major Republican candidates oppose comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. All oppose President Obama's executive actions on immigration that protect DREAMers and families from deportation. So it's no wonder that in the days after Trump accused immigrants from Mexico of being rapists, none proactively spoke out against Trump's fostering of anti-immigrant fears. The GOP 2016 candidates are in lock step on their anti-immigrant policies as they court their virulently anti-immigrant base.