It looks like immigration is going to consume the national debate for the next few weeks. Trump appears ready to deport 200,000 people who’ve been here for almost a generation and Congress is going to get into a showdown over fixing DACA. From a political standpoint, this debate further damages the GOP brand with people of color.
The Trump administration’s rush to deport Salvadorans, and probably Haitians and Hondurans, is part of the president’s effort to appeal to his white base. It may score political points in the short term but it will leave the Republican Party as a serious minority party in the long term. It also does little to address the pressing concerns of our immigration system.
The DACA debate questions whether or not the GOP is willing to protect people who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own. Democrats are threatening a government shutdown if the Dreamers who make up the DACA program are not protected. Repubicans say there’s not enough time for a comprehensive fix, but the debate has been dragging out for years.
Really, the immigration problem defines the Republican Party’s broader delimma. They’ve become a party beholden to a base that’s out of touch with most of America. While some Republicans may believe that people who have lived here for almost a generation should stay, they can’t get the rest of their agenda passed without support of the people who want them to go.
Trump believes firmly that satisfying his base is key to his success. It worked in the 2016 election and it’s keeping a significant portion of the 37% of Americans that support him happy. Republican leaders won’t rebuke him because they, too, need to keep that 37% on their side. It’s a short-term strategy. They’re relying on a segment of the population that’s shrinking while alienating the part that’s growing. I guess they’re calculating that they can eventually win over the immigrant community with tax cuts.