Ten months after the Republican Party released an election autopsy report and pledged to adopt a more welcoming tone towards minorities and immigrants, the GOP is still have ongoing problems with its base’s anti-immigrant sentiments.
This was evident late last week when the topic of immigration came up during a Tea Party meeting in South Carolina.
State Sen. Lee Bright (R), who is challenging U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in the Republican primary next year, took questions during the Laurens County Tea Party candidate forum on Thursday. When the moderator asked Bright what he would do about “illegals” who are already in the United States, Bright minced no words: “I’m for self-deportation.”
MODERATOR: Would you support any sort of legal status for illegals and if so, what sort of status would you have in mind you would possibly vote in favor of?
BRIGHT: I’m supportive of self-deportation. And if they don’t want to leave, if they break the law, I’m for taking them out and sending them back to wherever they came from because they need to observe our laws. So if they break the law I’m in favor of us deporting. If it comes down to a situation, I’m for self-deportation. I don’t believe in rewarding people for breaking the law.
Many election observers, including those on the right, attribute Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential election loss in part to his support for “self-deportation,” or making life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they have no choice but to leave the United States. The Chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, has since called the idea of self-deportation “horrific.”
“I don’t think it has anything to do with our party,” Priebus said in August of this year. “When a candidate makes those comments, obviously, it hurts us.”
But Bright’s backing of self-deportation is not an isolated case. Even influential Republican congressmen like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) still support self-deportation through “attrition.”
Of course, despite conservative hopes, studies show that policies designed to encourage self-deportation don’t actually work.
To learn more about Bright, ThinkProgress has a roundup of his other controversial policy views.