CPAC 2013: Trump Claims Immigration Reform Is “Suicide Mission” For GOP (video)

Owen Poindexter
Donald Trump declared that immigration reform, particularly providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants would be a "suicide mission" for the GOP.

Donald Trump spoke at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference that brings together the big-whigs of the GOP. The crowd Trump drew was called both large (for his 8:45am speaking slot) and small (he spoke to a mostly empty ballroom). His speech rambled over a number of issues over 15 minutes, but the big phrase that came out of it was "suicide mission." As in, it would be a suicide mission to grant legal status to the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, because "every single one of those 11 million people is going to vote Democratic, that's just how it is."

Okay, where to begin with this one? How about that Trump does not even address the policy merits or issues with creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. To Trump, whether or not we should continue to deport people who come here illegally starts and ends with whether it would be advantageous to the Republican party. I know, I know, there's gambling in the casino, but for a decision as consequential as how to treat 11 million people with very few rights, maybe we should think beyond the politics?

Second, Trump simply assumes that demographic trends will continue for decades, and then exaggerates them to comical effect. I realize he wasn't offering a detailed analysis, but for starters, it would be a miracle on the scale of being struck by lightning ten different times if any group of 11 million people all voted. The larger point is that Democrats don't exactly have a permanent claim to the Latino vote. Democrats have won the Latino vote every presidential election in the last twenty years, but that margin has drifted from over 50 points in Bill Clinton's landslide reelection to under 10 in George W. Bush's very narrow reelection. (Of course, not all 11 million illegal immigrants are Latino, but that's what Trump is talking about here. After saying it would be suicide to legalize the nation's illegal immigrants he went on to say that we should bring in more people from Europe.)

Third, has Trump read the "pathway to citizenship" plans he is decrying? They make becoming a citizen a long and expensive process. So a lot of those 11 million aren't going to bother, and the ones that do might not be able to vote for at least ten years.

There is a kernel of truth in Trump's message: if the Latino vote remains as heavily Democratic as it's been in both of Obama's elections, Republicans are in trouble. The Latino vote doubled as a percentage of the electorate from 5% in 1996 to 10% in 2012. It's still going up, as more Latinos become citizens, reach voting age and get registered. Republicans do have a Latino problem (and, more generally, a minority problem). They do need to shift their policies, at the very least to be more pro-lower and middle class, and perhaps even more pro-minority specifically.

Trying to win the next wave of elections as the party of rich, white people--that would be political suicide.