Republican Candidate For Virginia Governor: Dreamers Should Not Be Deported
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, who is the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia this year, has become the latest Republican to come out against President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, although he didn’t directly criticize the President:
RICHMOND — Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie said Friday that the the 800,000 young immigrants who have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals should not be forced to leave the country.
He made those comments after declining for days to take a firm stance on the Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday that it would rescind DACA, putting the future of the so-called “dreamers” in question.
Gillespie’s Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, joined other Democrats and some Republicans to immediately slam the DACA decision when it was announced Tuesday.
“I strongly disagree with President Trump’s decision to pull the rug out from under Dreamers who came out of the shadows to build a better life for themselves and their communities,” Northam said.”His decision lacks compassion, lacks moral sense, and lacks economic sense.”
In the following days, the president’s position seemed to waffle. Trump suggested he would “revisit” the issue if Congress didn’t come up with a solution within six months and he sought to reassure “dreamers.”
On Friday, after a joint appearance with Northam in Richmond, Gillespie spoke about the DACA decision.
“I’m the son of an immigrant,” he told reporters after the event. “My father came here as a child from Ireland. He was eight years old. … Now, they came here legally. He was processed through Ellis Island. But obviously, it wasn’t his choice to move to America and in the case of these dreamers, it wasn’t their choice either. And so, I think that clearly is a factor and I do not think they should be deported. And I hope Congress takes action to make sure that they’re not.”
Earlier, his appearance at the forum had been briefly interrupted by immigration advocates.
“Ed!” a man yelled from the back of the auditorium. “Reports confirm ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] wants to deport 10,000 migrants!”
A woman chimed in: “They want to deport all of us, all of the migrants! What are you going to do?”
A handful of protesters tried to get a chant going — “Not one more de-por-ta-tion!” – but were ushered out before it could really catch on.
Gillespie’s stance on immigration is complicated – as is his relationship to President Trump. To beat Northam in November, Gillespie needs the support of both Trump voters in the state as well as moderates.
“I don’t believe that children should be punished for decisions that were not their own, but at the same time, it is important for us to enforce our laws,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s decision.
As the article notes, Gillespie is in a somewhat difficult political position when it comes to immigration. On the one side, he must deal with the fact that Virginia has become increasingly less welcoming to Republican candidates in recent years, as can be seen in the fact that the state has gone for Democratic candidates in each of the past three Presidential elections after having gone Republican in every election since giving its Electoral Votes to Richard Nixon in 1968. Additionally, the state is represented by two Democratic Senators, although Gillespie did come surprisingly close to beating incumbent Senator Mark Warner in 2014. The state also has a Democratic Governor, Terry McAuliffe, who narrowly won the election in 2013 and current polling shows the Democratic candidate, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, leading Gillespie in the polls albeit with a significant portion of the electorate still apparently undecided. On the other side, though, Gillespie must deal with a Republican Party of Virginia that is presently divided between conservatives who strongly support President Trump and are generally skeptical of pro-immigration arguments and a substantial core of moderate Republican and Republican-leaning voters who are generally more pro-immigration. The second group of Republicans tends to dominate in areas such as Northern Virginia that, thanks to rapid population growth, have become critically important to any candidate hoping to win statewide while the more conservative wing of the GOP tends to dominate in rural areas and in areas such as the Tidewater and Virginia Beach area. That divide can be seen most starkly in the results of the Virginia Gubernatorial Primary, where Gillespie narrowly defeated Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, who has a long history of anti-immigrant views and policies, was for a time Trump’s Virginia campaign chair, and ran a campaign far to Gillespie’s right that included an intense focus on issues such as “preserving” symbols of the Confederacy on public property. Stewart is now a candidate for the Republican nomination to take on Senator Tim Kaine in the 2018 midterms. T
Gillespie, of course, is not the only Republican who has criticized the decision to end the DACA program and, potentially, deport the nearly 800,000 people who have qualified for deferrals from deportation under it. Even before the decision was announced, several top Republicans such as Paul Ryan and Orrin Hatch, as well as a host of other Republicans such as Florida Governor Rick Scott and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis were urging the President not to end the program and voicing support for the idea of Congress acting to extend it if the Administration took such action. Outside of Congress, both the business community and religious groups voiced support for extending the program and several of the members of those communities spoke out against the Administration’s decision. Additionally, initial polling has shown that most Americans, including most Republicans, oppose the President’s decision and support the idea of Congressional action.
No doubt those numbers would be reflected in a similar poll of Virginians likely to vote in November’s Gubernatorial election. Whether Gillespie’s decision to back the DREAM Act, which is effectively what he’s done here, remains to be seen. On the one hand, it could end up reassuring moderate Republicans and independents in Northern Virginia and elsewhere who might have otherwise voted for Northam. On the other, it could end up turning off the motivated conservative base of the party and Trump supporters in other parts of the state whose support Gillespie will need to overcome what seems to be a natural advantage for the Democratic candidate. We should get an idea about that when additional polling in the race is released over the coming weeks.