Supreme Court Could Put Immigration Front and Center for 2016 Election

A few months ago Dan Balz wrote this about the challenge facing the Republican presidential nominee:

Based on estimates of the composition of the 2016 electorate, if the next GOP nominee wins the same share of the white vote as Mitt Romney won in 2012 (59 percent), he or she would need to win 30 percent of the nonwhite vote. Set against recent history, that is a daunting obstacle. Romney won only 17 percent of nonwhite voters in 2012.

So far in the primaries, all the GOP candidates seem to be ignoring this reality with their race to see who can be the most rhetorically anti-immigrant and their dismissal of the concerns of African Americans.

The expectation is that by next summer the party will have settled on a nominee and it will be interesting to watch whether or not that candidate attempts the kind etch-a-sketch erasure that Romney tried to pull off four years ago. If so, recent events are likely to throw a monkey wrench into such a plan.

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans ruled against President Obama’s executive action to shield some 5 million undocumented workers from deportation. Immediately the Department of Justice announced that they would appeal that decision to the Supreme Court. That means that a decision on this issue would likely come next summer.

We already know that the Democratic candidates not only support the President’s position – they have all talked about going even farther to protect undocumented people from deportation. All of the Republican candidates have also taken a position – against it.

The very possible scenario is that, just as a Republican candidate might want to pivot away from the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric of the primaries, a decision on this issue from the Supreme Court could dictate the terms of the discussion. That will be interesting to watch.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.