They insist they’re only anti-illegal immigrant but they become anti-immigrant soon enough. When they talk about birthrates or changing demographics or the failure of some immigrants to learn English and assimilate as quickly as some would like or their alleged propensity to commit crimes, those concerns are much too broad to be limited to illegal immigrants. If these things are problems, they could just as easily stem from legal immigrants, which outnumber their illegal brethren about 3 to 1 in the United States. So if you’re as worried about the changing culture as much as you are secured borders, it’s only a matter of time before you set your sights on limiting the number of legal immigrants. And once that line is crossed, it’s much harder to hide and suppress the xenophobic impulses that drive much of the immigration debate. Once people have been exposed as anti-foreigner, it’s just a small leap until they reveal themselves as anti-Latino.
And that’s a good repellent. So for the sake of scaring up a few votes from the right-wing base, Republicans foolishly scare off a group of voters that they can’t afford to alienate.