Texas Republican leaders’ embrace of the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census in 2020 flies in the face of practical considerations, such as protecting federal funds vital to the state budget and avoiding a reduction in Texas’ congressional representation. Why? Because the attitudes of Texas Republican voters on immigration issues are taking political precedence over the best interests of the state.
Texas polling data shows a negative network of attitudes toward both legal and illegal immigrants among many GOP voters. This creates a significant obstacle to persuading Republican voters to consider the possible negative repercussion of changing the census form. Any Republican leader who might publicly oppose the census order fears angering these voters — and inciting primary challengers more willing to cater to these Republican ideals.
Large majorities of Texas Republicans have regularly expressed a lack of tolerance toward undocumented immigrants living in the United States. In the February 2018 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, 70 percent of Republican voters supported the proposition that all undocumented immigrants should be removed from the country immediately — a result in line with responses to many previous UT/TT polls.
The effects of these attitudes already resonate in the political process. The Republican majority in the most recent Texas Legislature passed an anti-sanctuary-city law that required law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and barred local authorities from prohibiting officers’ questioning of a person’s immigration status when the person is legally detained. The state’s leadership was playing in tune with their political base: In October 2017 UT/TT polling, 88 percent of Republicans supported requiring local law enforcement officials to cooperate…