“The Immigration Question: The Defining Issue of this Campaign”

22616101293_3fdd5a5acf_bA decade ago, we were surprised to hear a single immigration question throughout the entirety of the presidential debates. No longer. Immigration is a top-tier issue. Candidates are trying to formulate complex positions on the fly.

The battering that Marco Rubio took on immigration at the hands of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in the December 15 presidential debate will have profound implications for the early primaries.  Cruz repeatedly highlighted Rubio’s weak votes on immigration (and other issues) and, in particular, his support for various elements in the ‘Gang of 8 Bill.’  Cruz and Paul repeatedly went after Rubio while Cruz stated in the most emphatic manner possible that he would never support legalization or amnesty in any form proposed to date. Cruz: “I would enforce the law.” (Still, Cruz embraces again the legal/illegal dichotomy – “illegal bad/legal good.”   This dichotomy entails the throwaway line “we can all agree that we should open our doors widely to legal immigrants” as a form of political cover against the charge of being ‘anti-immigration.’ Jeb Bush uses a modified form of this argument to suggest we can control illegal immigration by letting in millions more legally.) At times, Rubio seemed unnerved as he seemed to recognize the vulnerability of his past flirtation with Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin. Meanwhile, Cruz is positioning himself as a defender of American workers by co-sponsoring with Jeff Sessions a bill to tighten up the H-1B process.

In other action, Trump hammers Bush on his “act of love” comment. Bush bewilderingly says we can’t cut Syrian refugee admissions for our security because we can’t offend Muslim’s worldwide. Christie remains very strong on the question of freezing Syrian refugee admissions.

So… primaries through Super Tuesday – especially Florida – are looking more and more interesting. But let’s be clear at this point: the immigration issue is emerging as THE defining issue in this campaign, ignited now by the battles between Trump and Bush, and Cruz and Rubio. The immigration debate is coming of age. The public is yearning for a candidate that will talk about a broader freeze on overall immigration. At a minimum, whoever sits behind the “Big Desk” in 2017 will have to have addressed the growing public concern about how immigration has eroded the nation’s sense of physical and economic security.

About Author


Dan is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s President after joining the organization in 1982. He has testified more than 50 times before Congress, and been cited in the media as "America's best-known immigration reformer." Dan has appeared on virtually every significant TV and radio news/talk program in America and, in addition to being a contributing editor to ImmigrationReform.com, has contributed commentaries to a vast number of print media outlets.


  1. avatar

    The problem isn’t just illegal immigration. We need to stop allowing huge amounts of people coming here legally also and no candidate seems to want to cut way back on green cards. America is overpopulated and has pollution and water problems and job shortages non of which is helped by bringing in huge amounts of people every year.

  2. avatar

    Immigration Reform is the defining issue of this campaign! Well who knew?
    ¡Adios, America! by Ann Coulter was released June1st 2015 (6.5 months ago), it was a #2 NYT best seller and Dan you’re just now figuring this out?

  3. avatar

    Trump will defeat ISIS, stop illegal immigration (as much as it can be) by securing our borders and increasing interior enforcement, and fix our foreign trade disaster that has been based on the globalists fantasies.

    The socialists/communists/collectivists/statists (read Democrats) and the Republican establishment (neocon globalists) are against Trump because in one way or another they want these things to continue, so they oppose Trump. It’s simple, really.

  4. avatar

    The America we know today has become a lie. There is no government representing the people but instead we have a government that represents itself.

    Americans have been sacrificed by government on the alter of diversity and multiculturalism. Uncontrolled immigration has brought the worst of the worst to this country. What was once the greatest country in the world has become a shadow of itself. Wages are stagnant, illegals and mock refugees are on every corner, and they’re steadily reducing the quality of Americans lives to rubble.

    Donald Trump has overwhelming Republican support because he’s promising to do what the people want, to terminate the scourge of illegals and mock refugees that are infesting our country.

    If he does that he deserves to be our next President.

      • avatar

        I am sorry SW….honestly…..I consider you top 1% but you think Putin’s words are towards Trump?……Putin wants us to crash and that will happen with Trump who is just all lips but no essence,,,,,if you can’t see that…well stick to engineering or your retirement….really man….you make me wonder….

      • avatar

        just do not answer being defensive just think about it man……….all the mistakes this guy has said in his speech……you realize speech is the first sign or intelligence in a human being…….so either he is just plain dumb or too old and set in his rude business mode……..if he wins and congress will not do what he wants….

        he will quit…………….he is an old dog…..

    • avatar

      Trump has the right idea on isis and the as it they are not here the right way and they have a kid here none of them are hear legally then they all go back and the kid is not a citizen that the way is should be and they get nothing for the taxpayers and no free hand outs on form the US government at all. Where I live out in the desert they have the nerve to come to where I am an want me to give them stuff and I run them off and call the border patrol and keep an eye on them so when they get here I tell them where they are.

      • avatar

        Richard grow up for a change……everybody in Congress has the right idea on anything……the problem is will they do it!!?? definitely not……if you like Trump you must be over 50+ and isolated all your life from the reality of our country….

    • avatar

      Californian could describe “Greatest country? by years and demographics…….? that is totally relative….the other day I spoke to an old man who remembers tough times here……lines on the gas stations……Wars……Civil unrest…..if I look at the begining 160 to 1800….Indian Wars…king Phillip……slavery Civil right….

      So it appears just for you….that is great…just keep your savings and as you and all of us get older…complaining will only ruin your day….you don’t have to embrace whatever future it is…you had a chance you could have been a gov man and change things……just enjoy life and generalizing things will cut your lifetime!!!

    • avatar

      So far I haven’t heard him say anything about stopping giving out massive amounts of green cards every year though. This is just as big of a problem. The republicans all want cheap desperate labor, instead of producing quality jobs for Americans they want to ship jobs overseas or import cheap labor on green cards. There really is no candidate that supports protecting and maintaining a middle class in america by protecting our jobs.

  5. avatar

    The idea that allowing more legal immigrants will reduce illegal entry is akin to a bank giving away free money to stop robberies. There are hundreds of millions of people who want to come here, and many, including those who would normally be denied entry, are going to come as long as we keep providing incentives to enter illegally. Hillary and the other Democrats are falling all over each other to promise goodies for illegals, including citizenship.

    It’s like another story posted on here today, in which some expressed “surprise” at another surge of minors at our southern border. Those people may be stupid, but those seeking entry are not. In spite of all the phony promises months ago by this administration that they would be deported, they weren’t. They were allowed to stay. Hello? I guess this message doesn’t filter back to Central America.