The 2018 elections were a mixed bag on the issue of illegal immigration. Some candidates who are strong on illegal immigration lost--such as Kris Kobach in the Kansas governor's race and Congressman Dave Brat in Virginia. However, others who have taken tough stances on the issue won--like Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley and Iowa Congressman Steve King. In Texas, tough anti-immigration candidates like Congressman Louie Gohmert, Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick all won.
On the other hand, some GOP candidates who took a softer stance on illegal immigration came up short--in particular Nevada Senator Dean Heller and Arizona Senate candidate Martha McSally. "That's 16 amnesty-supporting Republicans who lost their races," says William Gheen with Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC).
Pre-election day polls showed immigration was the most popular issue for Republican voters, but that may not have been a positive thing for the party. "There is a lag in Republican or conservative base voter enthusiasm," says Gheen. "Somewhere between 10 and 25 percent of Republican voters were demoralized by the fact that elected Republicans have been focused on amnesty."
And Gheen places a large portion of the blame for that GOP "demoralization" on President Donald Trump. "In 2016, because of Trump making a big issue about building a wall, ending DACA amnesty, and making illegals go home...all of that voter energy collected behind the GOP," he says. "And then we went two years with no wall, no funding for the wall, and Trump continuing the DACA amnesty to this day."
Because of disappointment over Trump and GOP leaders’ failures to keep their promises on the illegal immigration issue, Gheen counts himself among those who sat this election out. "There are a lot of Republicans, like me, who are now less likely to donate, volunteer, or actually show up and vote," he says.