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Primary contests move on to states that are more diverse than New Hampshire

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now we move on in the primary season to states that are a little more diverse than New Hampshire - in some cases, a lot more diverse than New Hampshire. And these other groups - more Black voters, more Latino voters, more other groups - they can matter some in a GOP primary, and they matter a lot in general elections. So let's talk over the future with Alfonso Aguilar. He is director of Hispanic engagement at the American Principles Project, which is a conservative advocacy group, and he worked in the administration of President George W. Bush. Welcome to the program, sir.

ALFONSO AGUILAR: Hello, Steve. Good morning. Happy to be with you.

INSKEEP: Yeah. I'm thinking of former President Trump's victory speech last night in New Hampshire. And it was characteristic of a lot of his recent speeches we've studied. There are a couple of things that he gets passionate about. One of them is personality conflicts - going after other individuals - and the other is immigration. He gets fired up about immigration. How does Trump's approach match up with appealing to a broader electorate?

AGUILAR: Well, I think the majority of Americans understand that the border is out of control, that we have a serious border crisis that challenges national security, that it's a humanitarian crisis. So that's why we're seeing the majority of Americans in every single poll saying that they're not happy with the approach of this current administration. So from African Americans to Hispanics, I think they're very dissatisfied with what the Biden administration has been doing. Hispanics are certainly open to President Trump's policies on immigration. I think - Democrats try to create this perception that Hispanics are for open borders, and they're not. They understand that what's happening at the border is a humanitarian crisis, that this - open-border policies are encouraging a massive flow of migrants to the border that creates an environment of crime. Over 60% of women and girls are victims of sexual assault and rape. The massive movement of people facilitates child trafficking. They know that.

INSKEEP: Let me just stop in for a second there.

AGUILAR: And so they want to control the border.

INSKEEP: You're exactly correct that there is crime along the border, as well as other parts of the United States and the world. It's true that most people don't favor open borders. And it's also a fact the border is not currently open. There's a Border Patrol. There's fencing. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are arrested. There are many people who are deported. So that is never a true statement. But you're correct that people are not in favor of that.

AGUILAR: Well, it is a true statement when they know that asylum is being abused, when even Secretary Mayorkas has said that 85% of people who arrive at the southern border and ask for asylum are let in, that's an incentive for people to make that trip to the southern border. So...

INSKEEP: If I can stop you again, I agree with you that it's correct that there are incentives there and that some people are paroled into the United States while they're waiting a deportation hearing. We could go into the complexities of this, but I want to ask about this aspect of it. The former president, when talking about people crossing the border, compares them to snakes, talks about Hannibal Lecter, who's a cannibal in a famous movie, says that people are being released out of insane asylums. Does that appeal to Latino voters?

AGUILAR: Well, look, I think, like most Americans, Hispanics, understand that President Trump has a particular way of speaking. I don't think they think that President Trump is generalizing and thinks that all Hispanics are like that. But it is - but they recognize that some people who are involved in crime are coming through the southern border. we've seen an increase in the number of people that are in the list of terrorists, that have arrived at the southern border. So they recognize that there's an element of crime because of this border crisis that we have. And, look, I mean, during the Trump years, legal migration continued. We continue to be a welcoming country. Every single year we gave to a million people green cards. We naturalized up to 800,000 people every year during the Trump administration. So the country continued being a welcoming nation.

INSKEEP: Although, I just have to note there I just have to note there one of Trump's aides, Stephen Miller, made it his personal cause to close off avenues of legal immigration. There were specific, explicit efforts in the Trump administration to limit legal immigration, and they gave reasons why. In about 10 seconds, why would you deny that?

AGUILAR: Because in practice, that didn't happen. I think...

INSKEEP: You're saying he failed, and therefore he's pro-immigration?

AGUILAR: No, no. There wasn't an effort. I mean, there was no legislation that this administration - that the Trump administration put forward or policy to curtail...

INSKEEP: If I can stop - yeah, I got to stop you there. It's true. There wasn't legislation. There were changes in regulations and efforts to change regulations. Alfonso Aguilar, thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it. Hope to have you back. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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