Trump’s Immigration Plan Casts Rivals as the Rope in a Tug of War

NYT FDAlan Rappeport 8/18/2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 7.39.44 AMGood Tuesday morning. Cameras and microphones flocked to Donald J. Trumpon Monday as he fulfilled his civic responsibilities and reported for jury duty in Manhattan. But it is his strict immigration proposals that continue to gain widespread attention and expose tension in the party over which crucial voting bloc is best to alienate and upset: Mr. Trump’s already angry supporters or Hispanics.

Republicans were hoping to leave their immigration woes behind, but six months before the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Trump has made that impossible.

By articulating his policy of rounding up immigrants and building a big wall, Mr. Trump has forced the party to talk about immigration in the terms of its most ardent activists. So much for Republicans wooing Hispanic voters with a more moderate tone.

“Chasing extremists on immigration to win the primary will end the Republican Party’s ability to win the general election in 2016, and it will destroy the party,” said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. “If you alienate the fastest-growing voting block in the country you cannot win today, and you cannot survive tomorrow.”

Conservatives walk a tightrope in both directions, running the risk of upsetting their base by breaking too far from Mr. Trump, who leads in the polls. But a Gallup survey this month found that just 31 percent of Republicans favor deporting all illegal immigrants — as Mr. Trump wants to do.

The tension in the party was evident on Monday when Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said that Mr. Trump’s plan to build a wall “didn’t make any sense” and when Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin echoed Mr. Trump’s support for ending birthright citizenship, suggesting to Iowans that he had inspired much of Mr. Trump’s overall plan.

On Monday evening, Lorella Praeli, the America Latino outreach director for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign, released a statement linking Mr. Walker to Mr. Trump, and both of them to the rest of the party.

“It is disturbing that Republican presidential candidates continue to embrace extreme anti-immigrant positions as core pieces of their immigration platform,” Ms. Praeli said.

As Mrs. Clinton heads to Nevada on Tuesday to meet with members of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., she will most likely be eager to resume the debate.