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Immigration Issue at Center of Republican Campaigns

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Eight American states held primary elections on Tuesday. Voters chose candidates who will represent political parties in the general elections.

In November, voters will fill all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, and one third of the 100 seats in the Senate.

Many Republican Party candidates plan to center their campaigns on an issue President Donald Trump considers important – immigration.

Last week, more than 5,000 supporters attended a political event in Nashville, Tennessee. Many shouted “build the wall” in support for Trump’s plan for a wall between the United States and Mexico.

Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn said in a video: “I believe in President Trump’s immigration ban, and I’ll fight with him every step of the way to build that wall.” Blackburn is currently seeking a Senate seat.

Across the country, immigration has been a subject in more than one third of television ads for Republicans seeking House seats. The newspaper USA Today says those candidates run immigration issue messages almost as much as pro-Trump ads.

Dan Cox works for the Public Religion Research Institute, PRRI, a nonprofit group. He said many experts debate whether pro-Trump voters will turn out to support other Republican candidates.

He added that many Republican candidates are trying to copy Trump’s position and way of thinking on some issues.

Energizing the base, while ignoring others

He said, “Midterm elections typically are about the base, and this issue really animates the Republican base.”

Earlier this year, Trump’s reelection campaign released a video. The ad tells the story of Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented immigrant. It says he was tried and found guilty of killing two California sheriff’s deputies. The announcer in the ad says: “Democrats who stand in our way, will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”

The message appears similar to what Trump has said recently about illegal immigrants. Cox says the president’s statements relate to personal safety -- a message important to many white, working-class Americans.

A 2017 opinion study found that 62 percent of working-class voters believe the growing number of immigrants threatens American culture. Among the same group, voters who supported calls to expel illegal immigrants were 3.3 times more likely to support Trump than those who did not. PRRI and The Atlantic magazine reported the findings.

But choosing to direct attention on Trump’s immigration policies comes with risks, says Diana Mutz, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Mutz researched electoral behavior in the 2016 elections. She said Trump operates on the idea that being anti-immigrant won him votes. But, she told VOA, that understanding is incorrect.

“Yes, things like trade did win him votes but things like immigration actually did not,” Mutz said. “They lost him votes because he was far too extreme.”

A Pew Research Center study found that 65 percent of Americans said immigrants strengthen the United States “because of their hard work and talents.” Another 26 percent consider them a problem “because they take jobs, housing, and health care.”

Among Republicans, opinions are more evenly split — 42 percent had a good opinion of immigrants, but 44 percent did not.

Ramon Taylor reported this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted his report for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

animate – v. to give life to; to move to action

complicit – v. to take part in a crime or so wrong in some way

commit – v. to carry out

talent – n. a special ability or skill

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