The Republicans’ key to 2016: Immigration reform

Olivier Douliery | Tribune News Service

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Establishment candidate or not, the 2016 presidential election could prove to be a pivotal crossroads for the Republican Party and it may come down to one issue leading to a key demographic.

The Latin American vote played a huge role in the 2012 presidential election and will play just as large of a role, if not larger, in the upcoming election, with increasingly polarizing views being displayed by candidates such as Donald Trump’s infamous zero-tolerance stance on illegal immigrants.

With Republican candidates, such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, with some of the most conservative immigration policies polling highest, it is likely the Democrats will once again dominate the demographic unless Republican candidates moderate their stances.

Candidates such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been pushing more progressive immigration policies and have some of the most progressive ideas on immigration in the party, including looking to provide paths to citizenship for illegal aliens and other concepts as seen in the DREAM Act such as increased rights for immigrants, which Rubio co-sponsored in 2003.

The numbers from the 2012 election are astonishing. Obama won nearly 75 percent of Hispanic votes, according to an article published by the National Review.

A good portion of immigrants from Latin America are a prime target for the Republican Party, many times coming from religious backgrounds and circumstances which create social conservatism which largely parallel the many of the Republican Party’s more traditional ideals.

Not to flag these individuals as single-issue voters who care only about immigration policy, but it is understandable that they may have a hard time voting for a candidate or party with such a regressive immigration policy — specifically with first and second-generation Latin Americans who may know the struggle of immigration firsthand.

This may be one of the largest struggles the Republican Party faces in this upcoming election as well as future elections.

With the influx of non-establishment candidates such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who have a feasible chance of receiving the nomination, the party’s future is being put at odds.

With today’s non-establishment conservatives, it seems to be a cardinal sin to have a progressive view on immigration, and candidates who dare to do so are stuffed in the polls, exemplified in the case of Jeb Bush seeing ever-declining ratings as he stands by his progressive immigration policy.

Many credit the majority of the success seen by candidates such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz specifically to their conservative stance on immigration policy.

With the paradox presented particularly in the upcoming selection of the Republican candidate, it is hard to imagine the party remaining as we know it today.

The threat of a vote split in the GOP is feared as traditional conservatives find many of the ideas and principles presented by some candidates hard to support, according to an article published by The New York Times Jan. 9.

A split vote in the Republican Party from a candidate not getting the nomination, yet running as an independent, could be just the start of the party’s woes.

The party could break into factions categorized by conservatives and moderates. An article published by MSNBC attributes this change to a clash in generations which file voters into one of the two distinct groups, with immigration reform at the forefront of this divide.

While political party change can lead to better representation of individuals, a split in the GOP could easily prove to be disastrous for conservatism as a whole.

Essentially, it seems as if the concept of compromise within the political spectrum has been lost. Certainly this can be applied to immigration policy, but also across the board. For the Republican Party to survive, there needs to not only be an increased effort in crossing party lines, but an execution of the seemingly simple task of establishing the party’s identity.