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Iowa and New Hampshire did not prepare us for the full extent of Republican immigration insanity.

Those first-in-the-nation caucus and primary states are overwhelmingly white. And while the effects of manufacturing jobs getting shipped overseas are very real to blue collar workers there, the “threat” of immigration — as defined by this field of Republican candidates — has come alive as the election shifts south.

In South Carolina, 1 in 20 residents are Latino or Hispanic. But 1 in 10 South Carolina Republicans say immigration is their most important issue. And in a state likely to lean Republican in the general election, it’s not hard to guess whose voices come out on top.

Now, the question is not whether we will deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently within our borders, but how. A month after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley “took sides” in her response to the State of the Union by stating that fixing “our broken immigration system” requires “welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants,” the Republicans seeking her state’s vote — and presumably, her endorsement — have disregarded that sentiment.

Let’s survey these past few days:

Donald Trump just released a Willy Horton-style ad about Jas Shaw, the murder victim of “an illegal immigrant gang member who just got out of prison”:

In an earlier statement to Breitbart, Donald Trump insisted that Americans ought to get jobs first, instead of “importing foreign replacements.”

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — both children of immigrants — continue to attack each other for supposedly lying (and actually lying) about their immigration records in the Senate — the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform plan and guest worker alliances, respectively. Of course, their actual positions don’t matter in these attacks: this Republican primary demands purity, a non-existent commodity in the Senate.

Even Jeb Bush — alone in defending his support of “earned legal status” — has leaned on the other half of his plan: Secure. The. Border.

Fine. Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of immigrants — recent and not — living in South Carolina, most of them fully within their legal rights. And they have voices, too. Take Jose Rivera, who recently told the South Carolinian The State that he feared a “witch hunt” if Donald Trump comes out on top:

“I would tell [“the majority of Republicans”] to stop deportation and to stop tearing apart families. Imagine if they came and took your family members away.”

 

Need a palette cleanser? Pope Francis will hold a cross-border mass tomorrow. “This is one community despite the fence,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said today.

Photo: A U.S. border patrol officer sits in his vehicle along the border with Mexico near San Ysidro, California February 25, 2015.   REUTERS/Mike Blake 

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