The confrontation between Donald Trump and John Kasich in Tuesday night’s Republican debate over immigration was telling—not because they shared practical solutions, but for what it revealed about how each views the country and its ideals.
The debate laid bare clear divisions among the party’s presidential candidates on the hot-button issue. Trump fielded a question on immigration, and offered a response that he has regurgitated several times on the campaign trail—and which accounts for his surge in the polls.
“We are a country of laws. We need borders,” Trump said. “We will have a wall. The wall will be built. The wall will be successful.” It’s a regular talking point for the real-estate mogul, who also vows that Mexico will pay for the wall. But, on Tuesday, it was his deportation strategy that drew the strongest response from his rivals. Trump has said that he would deport 11 million undocumented immigrants in one fell swoop. Ohio Governor John Kasich dismissed that idea as a “silly argument.”
Instead, Kasich invoked the emotional burden such a move would impose on the families of undocumented immigrants. “Think about the families, think about the children,” he said, adding, “if they’ve been law abiding [and] they pay a penalty, they get to stay.” The Ohio governor has described the immigrant community in a similar frame before. “They’re hard workers, they’re God-fearing, they’re family-oriented,” he told CNN. “If they committed a crime, they’ve got to be deported or put in prison, but the only reason I say that is we have to solve this.”