GOPers Try Substance over Style to Challenge Trump on Immigration

Amanda Sakuma, MSNBC, September 16, 2015

Donald Trump’s fiery rhetoric on immigration launched his presidential campaign to the top of the polls and lurched the Republican field even further to the right at a lightning speed. But while the real estate mogul has succeeded in style, his GOP competitors came out swinging Wednesday with substance, using the second debate of the 2016 season to dog-pile on what the party’s front-runner is getting wrong about immigration.

The wall that Trump wants to Mexico to build at the border? Too expensive. The plan to deport the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. within two years? Impossible. End birthright citizenship by re-writing the 14th Amendment? Unrealistic.

Once again Trump was front and center in the debate, railing against the “bad dudes” that he says he will deport on his first day in office, if he’s elected. For nearly three months Trump has lobbed personal attacks on immigration against his fellow Republican presidential hopefuls–some of whom have pushed back as the “anti-Trump” to only measured success.

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{snip} New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a shot at the billionaire’s deportation plan and proposed timeline (“For 1,500 people a day to be deported–every day–for two years, is an undertaking that almost none of us could accomplish giving the current levels of funding and the current level of law enforcement officers”). Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina knocked on Trump’s plan for birthright citizenship (“You can’t just wave your hands and say ‘the 14th Amendment is gonna go away’ ”).

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All candidates agree that “amnesty” is a four-letter word for conservatives (though don’t tell them about Ronald Reagan’s legacy on immigration). Most all candidates agree that boosting resources at the border should be a priority. But few have reached a consensus on how to deal with the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the U.S.

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On one end of the spectrum, there’s Trump who says all 11 million should be deported. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suggested that the 40% of unauthorized immigrants who overstayed their visas are low-hanging fruit for deportation (“You can solve half the problem by telling them to return to their home country,” he said Wednesday.) Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson said those with “pristine records” should be offered guest worker programs in agriculture.

“And they have a six-month period to do that. If they don’t do it within that time period, then they become illegal, and as illegals, they will be treated as such,” Carson said.

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Still candidates stressed that assimilation–namely English proficiency–was vital to any immigration plan.

“We have to have assimilation to have a country,” Trump said after being called out for criticizing Bush for speaking Spanish along the campaign trail. “This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish.”

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