- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2015

The Democratic National Committee pounced on Sen. Lindsey Graham’s decision Monday to pull out of the 2016 GOP presidential race, saying it is symbolic of how the GOP has scrapped its Hispanic outreach efforts and plans to support “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Mr. Graham was the most vocal supporter of an immigration overhaul that included a pathway to legal status and eventual citizenship for most illegal immigrants living in the United States.

His rivals, meanwhile, staked out more hard-line positions on immigration, with some calling for border security to be addressed first, and others ruling out anything resembling “amnesty” and calling for illegal immigrants to be deported.

“In its 2012 election autopsy, the Republican Party made a big deal about supporting immigration reform and reaching out to Hispanic voters,” said DNC spokesman Eric Walker. “Three years later, the one presidential candidate who has consistently favored comprehensive immigration reform just dropped out of the race after attracting virtually no support.”

In addition to his views on immigration, Mr. Graham’s belief in climate change, hawkish views on defense and recent vote for the $1.8 trillion end-of-year spending and tax package put him at odds with some GOP voters.

Released after President Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney in 2012, the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project said the GOP must “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform” to broaden its appeal among Hispanic voters.

“If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only,” the report read.

In the ensuing months, Mr. Graham and members of the “Gang of Eight” in the Senate, a group that also included Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another 2016 GOP presidential candidate, pushed an immigration overhaul through the upper chamber to the delight of immigration right activists.

But the House did not take up a similar proposal, which proved to be unpopular among conservative lawmakers that opposed “amnesty.”

Mr. Rubio has since walked back his support of that bill, saying the experience taught him that elected leaders must first convince the American public they are serious about securing the nation’s borders before voters will be open to granting legal status or citizenship to illegal immigrants.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, is calling for all illegal immigrants to be deported, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has come out against citizenship and legalization.

Mr. Walker said Mr. Trump “has consistently demonized immigrant communities” and Mr. Cruz has urged the field to join him in “his extreme position of opposing legalization or citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

“Good job, good effort, GOP,” Mr. Walker said.

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