Pope Francis lobbed a holy hand grenade into the Republican race on Thursday by labeling Donald Trump “not Christian” over his call for a border wall with Mexico. But the resulting explosion may engulf more candidates than the pope intended.
Trump may be famous for his pledge to build a “beautiful wall,” but much of the GOP field and even Democrats who have worked on immigration reform have called for similar barriers as well.
Hardliner Sen. Ted Cruz supports a wall, of course, and Dr. Ben Carson has talked up the effectiveness of multi-layered fencing. But then so does Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is considered a moderate within the party when it comes to immigration. “The wall has to go up,” Kasich told Fox News in September.
Sen. Marco Rubio also supports significant fencing at the border and this position predates his shift to the right on immigration. The bipartisan Gang of Eight bill he co-authored in the Senate was amended, at Rubio’s insistence and with the support of Democrats, to require completion of 700 miles of fencing.
“We must secure our border, the physical border, with a wall, absolutely,” Rubio said in a September GOP debate.
Among the current field, only former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has registered significant objections to a border wall, arguing that it was inefficient and costly compared to alternate security measures and would inflame tensions with Mexico.
Instead the far bigger flashpoint among the GOP candidates has been the issue of deportations. Cruz and Trump favor removing all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. either by force or attrition, while Rubio, Bush, Kasich, and Carson have suggested that they should be given a chance to qualify for legal status if they meet certain requirements and the border is secured.
Trump responded to the Pope’s criticism immediately on Facebook and accused Mexico of lobbying Francis to oppose his candidacy, “because they want to continue to rip off the United States.”
Trump added, “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened,” Trump said in the same post.
This article originally appeared on MSNBC.com.