As president, Donald Trump imposed an array of deeply divisive immigration restrictions on both Latinos and Muslims. And yet from 2016 to 2020, he increased his share of the vote among both groups. Even some Latino and Muslim voters who opposed Trump’s immigration agenda moved to support him anyway because of his record on other issues, particularly the economy and conservative social priorities.
Now Trump and several of his rivals for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination are doubling down on the bet that they can target each group with harsh immigration policies without paying an electoral price.
For months, they have proposed an escalating succession of hard-line measures aimed at deterring mostly Latino undocumented migrants from crossing the southern border. And following the Hamas terror attack on Israel earlier this month, they rolled out a wave of exclusionary proposals aimed at Muslims. Trump has pledged that, if returned to the White House, he will restore his travel ban on people from a number of majority-Muslim nations, expand ideological screening of all potential immigrants to ensure that they agree with “our religion,” and deport foreign students in the United States who express hostility to Israel.
Trump and other GOP 2024 candidates such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have unveiled these proposals even as many Democratic-leaning activists warn that support for President Joe Biden is suffering in Latino and Muslim communities. Polls have consistently shown widespread discontent among Latinos over inflation and the economy. And many Muslim Americans are angry at Biden for his strong support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he pursues his military campaign to destroy Hamas in Gaza. “There is a level of disgust and disbelief and disappointment at the administration’s handling of the crisis so far,” Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the national deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told me.
The movement of some of these voters away from Biden produces a powerful incentive for Republicans to escalate their rhetorical and policy offensive against immigrant communities. It means that Trump could achieve the best of both worlds politically: offering a harsh anti-immigrant agenda that energizes the most xenophobic white voters in his coalition while still maintaining, or even growing, his support among immigrant communities drawn to him (or repelled by Democrats) on other issues. [Continue reading…]