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GOP Focuses on Immigration and Crime in Affluent Orange County

A camouflage-clad mannequin sat on a table where Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with officials about home invasions in Orange County, Cal. The prop was meant to draw attention to claims that Chileans entering the U.S. through a loophole in the immigration system are donning specialized suits that resemble foliage, hiding near homes, and breaking in, typically from a second-story balcony, before making off with cash, jewelry, and other high-value goods. “There’s no consequences for these people when they get caught,” McCarthy said Friday at the Orange County district attorney’s office, where he was joined by several Republican members of Congress from Southern California, reports the Los Angeles Times. The meeting demonstrated that with Republicans’ narrow control of Congress in jeopardy next year, the party’s leaders are emphasizing border control and public safety as they try to appeal to affluent suburbanites in traditional conservative strongholds like Orange County that have grown more moderate. While polling shows economic concerns are paramount in voters’ minds in California and across the nation, messaging about crime and immigration helped GOP candidates win competitive congressional districts during the 2022 midterm election and increased support among some liberal-leaning voter blocs.

The event highlighting Orange County home invasions took place before McCarthy headlined a high-dollar fundraiser focused on protecting vulnerable California members of Congress. Donors contributed up to $100,000 to attend the gathering at the exclusive Pacific Club in Newport Beach. In front of the cameras, McCarthy focused on a niche issue that has attracted bipartisan concern and allowed him to highlight immigration and crime: the problems Orange County prosecutors are encountering with a visa-waiver program that allows people from participating countries to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. District Attorney Todd Spitzer said the Chilean government has refused to provide criminal histories of their citizens who are entering the U.S., making it difficult to prosecute members of the crime ring he blamed for home invasions. McCarthy threatened to block money for the visa waiver program unless the Biden administration bars Chileans from entering without a background check. Though concerns about the Chilean visa situation have drawn concerns from Democrats as well as Republicans, fears about immigrants and crime have long been central to GOP campaigns across the nation. Years of polling show voters view Republicans as being more stringent on justice issues. Polling in California shows that voters are not so focused on these issues as their counterparts in other parts of the country.


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