The Republican base may or may not be on board with the idea of deporting every last illegal immigrant, but there exists a broad consensus that we must make our southern border as impenetrable as possible and that illegal immigrants should face significant consequences for breaking the law. While there are very few who think legal immigration should cease entirely, 67 percent of Republicans (and 49 percent of all Americans) think legal immigration should be reduced from current levels.
The RNC report’s advocacy for a path to citizenship was a slap in the face to those Republicans who had long been angry about illegal immigration. Businesses big and small made the decision to employ illegal immigrants in violation of the law. A generation of Washington politicians responded with a tacit shrug, even after 9/11. That same generation of politicians, running a government infrastructure capable of reading all of our e-mails and vacuuming up the metadata from all of our cell phones, didn’t seem to care that millions of visitors had overstayed their visas and disappeared from the system. Local governments that will nail you for an expired parking meter announced they were “sanctuary cities” and would no longer cooperate with federal efforts to deport those here illegally. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement, charged with leading those efforts, botched its most basic duties.
Again, in late 2012 and early 2013, it wasn’t easy for the RNC team to foresee that these scandals would capture the public’s attention and remain at the forefront of Republicans minds. But it wasn’t exactly impossible, either.