Really, now — nobody could have predicted that if Republicans failed to pass immigration reform when they had the chance in 2013 and 2014,  it would become a major issue in the 2016 race, in ways that are alarming GOP strategists. Yet, shockingly, here we are.

Donald Trump’s foray into the immigration debate has now sparked a flare-up between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. And some Republicans are openly warning that Trump’s comments threaten to do severe damage to the GOP brand among Latinos.

CNN’s Maeve Reston has a good rundown of the latest, reporting that “many Republican strategists have watched with alarm as Trump has sucked up all the oxygen in the presidential race on the issue”:

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“We’ve gone from 44% to 27% among Hispanic voters, for a reason. You’ll never convince me that it hasn’t been about the way that we’ve handled this issue,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a telephone interview with CNN on Tuesday.
“Mitt Romney showed a lot of political courage by saying that (his comment about) ‘self-deportation’ was a mistake, and now here we have Donald Trump casting 11 million people in a very derogatory manner. That’s a problem,” said Graham, who is also seeking the GOP presidential nomination.
“There are some within the 11 million that are bad people, but I cannot tell you how harmful it is to reinforce a narrative that Republicans basically have very little respect for people.”

This quote gets at what this whole debate is really about. Trump’s comments — he referred to undocumented immigrants as drug dealers and rapists — have been properly condemned by some of the GOP candidates. But as Graham suggests, they are a reminder of a lingering, deeper fundamental difference between the parties that could prove crucial to deciding the Latino vote and the 2016 outcome. Broadly speaking, many Democratic officials think undocumented immigrants have something positive to contribute to American life, and many Republican officials don’t. Or, even if they do, they are just not willing to countenance legally integrating them — because of their previous lawbreaking — under any set of workable conditions.

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This is exactly what Jeb Bush was saying when he insisted a year ago that the plight of undocumented immigrants is a morally complex one — yes, they broke the law, but only to seek a better life for their families — and that they could be making “a contribution to our country if we actually organized ourselves in a better way.” Bush’s comments were met with a tremendous backlash. Since then, the GOP has only trooped to the right on immigration, voting to roll back President Obama’s efforts to re-prioritize our deportation policies around the idea that many of these immigrants represent something more than full-blown criminals. The GOP candidates have pledged to do the same, and have retreated to a safe-zone where mere consideration of legalization can only begin if the border is made entirely secure first.

Hillary Clinton is explicitly highlighting this fundamental underlying difference between the parties, noting that the GOP candidates “range across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcome or hostile toward immigrants,” and adding:

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“I’m going to talk about comprehensive immigration reform,” Clinton said Tuesday. “I’m going to talk about all of the good, law-abiding, productive members of the immigrant community that I personally know, that I’ve met over the course of my life, that I would like to see have a path to citizenship.”

As I noted yesterday, Democrats shouldn’t get complacent about the durability of their gains among Latinos. But Clinton’s aggressive contrast-drawing on immigration suggests she won’t — and as such, it’s not surprising that the latest turn in this debate has GOP strategists so worried.

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* HILLARY AND JEB GO TO WAR OVER IMMIGRATION: Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are now trading barbs over immigration, with Clinton accusing Bush of backing off previous support for citizenship, and Bush claiming Clinton has performed numerous flip-flops on the issue.

One notable detail, reported by the Post: Bush aides are declining to clarify his current position on citizenship. Isn’t Bush supposed to be refusing to pander to GOP primary voters?

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 * CONGRESS PROBABLY CAN’T STOP IRAN DEAL: Politico reports that even foes of an Iran deal acknowledge that its unlikely that the votes are there in the Senate to override Obama’s veto of a vote to disapprove a nuclear deal with Iran. This doesn’t mean there won’t be a lot of noise first: As National Journal reports, the White House will face a challenge in keeping some Senate Democrats behind a deal.

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If the deal looks like the previously-announced framework, however, it’s very hard to imagine Senate Democrats helping sustain a veto override.

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The practice of having super PACS, which can be entirely financed by a single billionaire, take over such operations allows campaigns, which may raise only $2,700 from any one donor, to outsource the costly, labor-intensive work of recruiting activists and building lists of supporters. It could also allow second-tier candidates to be more competitive, prolonging the nominating process.

All of that money has to go somewhere! This could allow a GOP general election candidate to better offset the on-the-ground support Dems enjoy from labor.

The new rules, a top demand of civil-rights groups, will require cities and towns all over the country to scrutinize their housing patterns for racial bias and to publicly report, every three to five years, the results. Communities will also have to set goals, which will be tracked over time, for how they will further reduce segregation.

Taken with Obama’s recent announcement of a hike in the overtime pay threshold, it’s the latest use of executive action where possible to move his agenda in the face of a stalled Congress.

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* WALKER-MENTUM IN IOWA!!! The Des Moines Register reports that after his presidential kick-off next week, Scott Walker will launch a three-day tour of Iowa that is designed to “signal Iowa’s importance to his presidential campaign” and “prove his Midwest appeal in an over-sized presidential field.”

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Walker’s call for a Constitutional amendment allowing states to ban gay marriage and rightward lurch on immigration also suggest just how much he’s betting on Iowa’s conservative activists.

* BREAKING: TRUMP IS FULL OF IT ON IMMIGRATION: Trump continues to defend his comments by saying “crime is coming across” the border. Michelle Lee has a great takedown of Trump’s outbursts, with a look at the facts about illegal immigration and crime, concluding:

Trump’s repeated statements about immigrants and crime underscore a common public perception that crime is correlated with immigration, especially illegal immigration. But that is a misperception; no solid data support it, and the data that do exist negate it. Trump can defend himself all he wants, but the facts just are not there.

The Donald will issue an abject apology any day now, because he is far more interested in improving our discourse with fidelity to the facts than in getting lots of media attention.

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