Director, Media Relations
Donald Trump has been grabbing headlines for weeks with his extreme comments on a variety of topics. One issue in particular that has been at the top of Trump’s seemingly unfiltered commentary is immigration. From alleging that Mexico is sending “rapists” who are “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” to the United States, to suggesting the mass deportation of the 11 million immigrants without status living in the United States and an end to birthright citizenship, Trump’s views are, by any measure, extreme.
While some Republicans have taken pains to emphasize that Trump’s comments and views on immigration are an anomaly and do not represent the Republican Party, Center for American Progress Action Fund’s analysis of the top Republican candidates’ comments and policy perspectives demonstrates otherwise. And the candidates only reinforced these perspectives during the Reagan Library Republican presidential debate on September 16. (Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who suspended his campaign for president on September 21, 2015, participated in the Reagan Library debate and is included in this analysis). Based on their declarations in interviews, in speeches, and in written statements, the top Republican candidates hold views similar, if not identical, to Trump’s beliefs. The remarkable similarities on key immigration issues are detailed below.
Trump sparked significant controversy when he called for the mass deportation of the country’s unauthorized immigrants, a proposal estimated to cost $114 billion. Additionally, forcing unauthorized immigrants to leave the country because they fear excessive policing, sometimes referred to as “attrition through enforcement” or “self-deportation,” has been the default GOP immigration policy for some time and was championed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) during his 2012 presidential run. Economists have estimated that the mass deportation of unauthorized immigrants could reduce the U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, by 5.7 percent over 20 years—sucking $1.6 trillion out of the economy. Trump and Romney aren’t the only proponents of mass deportation: Both retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Gov. Walker—who ended his candidacy on September 21—have implied that they support the policy.
Even though birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Trump’s call to end birthright citizenship has put the spotlight on other GOP candidates’ positions on the issue. Ending birthright citizenship means requiring new parents to undertake the lengthy and complicated processes of proving their children’s citizenship, which could amount to an effective birth tax of $600 per child. It also means condemning children to a permanent underclass simply by virtue of their birth. Meanwhile, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has played directly to Trump’s style or rhetoric by deriding so-called “anchor babies”—a term considered offensive even by a right-of-center Latino outreach organization that Bush helped to launch. Bush has said that immigrants have adopted the practice of coming to the United States to give birth, which he says undermines birthright citizenship. Not to be outdone on this issue, other candidates have made similar statements in support of ending birthright citizenship.
Even though polls have repeatedly shown strong support from the American public for providing a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, Donald Trump strongly opposes such a plan. However, establishing a pathway for legal status and citizenship for 11 million to 12 million persons without status is an economic winner: It would add a cumulative $1.2 trillion to U.S. GDP over 10 years and reduce the federal budget deficit by $820 billion over the next 20 years. Despite the facts, Trump and the other Republican candidates oppose a pathway to citizenship.
Trump opposes President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration that would grant temporary reprieve from deportation to immigrants who have resided in the United States for a number of years and either came as children or are the parents of U.S. citizens or permanent resident children. These actions would add a cumulative $230 billion to U.S. GDP over a decade, increase the earnings of all Americans, and create thousands of jobs each year. And yet, Trump is not alone in his opposition.
Despite the attempts by some in Republican leadership to draw a distinction between Trump’s views on immigration and those held by other GOP candidates, analysis of their policy proposals shows that the top Republican candidates for president support the key planks of Trump’s immigration platform. Additionally, Republican candidates’ constantly changing views on immigration policy raise important questions and real concerns about which policies they can be counted on to support if elected president.
Ryan Erickson is the Associate Director of Economic Campaigns at the Center American Progress Action Fund. Angela Maria Kelley is the Executive Director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
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Associate Director, Economic Campaigns
Executive Director, Center for American Progress Action Fund; Senior Vice President, Center for American Progress