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Will Donald Trump move the needle on the immigration debate?

Business mogul Donald Trump gives a speech as he announces his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House.

Christopher Gregory, Getty Images

Donald Trump has pulled off an amazing feat.

During a summer that has had no shortage of news events, from major Supreme Court decisions to the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, he has managed to stay in the limelight -- and keep the issue of immigration in the headlines -- after his recent comments calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. He has also gotten nearly every other Republican in the 2016 GOP race to talk about his candidacy, rather than their own.

Trump shows little sign of letting up -- he's headed to Arizona this weekend to give a speech alongside Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is notorious for his own hard-line views on illegal immigration. And he's boasted about bringing renewed attention to the issue.

"You wouldn't be hearing about the word immigration if it weren't for Donald Trump," he said in an interview with NBC News this week. "I brought the whole subject up!"

Still, conservative insiders say he's unlikely to move the needle on the GOP's internal divide over immigration.

"Will there be long term impact for the Republican Party? I don't think so, mostly because our nominee's not going to be Donald Trump," Republican strategist John Feehery told CBS News. He said it reminded him of the attention that some of the long-shot 2012 presidential candidates like former congresswoman Michele Bachmann and businessman Herman Cain received last election cycle.

If anything, Trump serves as a reminder that the Republican Party is as divided on immigration as they were at the end of the 2012 election, after GOP nominee Mitt Romney's dismal showing among Latinos. That election prompted the Republican National Committee (RNC) to decide that 2013 was the year to champion comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately for the RNC, many Republican members of the House of Representatives and the constituents they represented were not ready to swap increased border security spending for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Consequently, a bipartisan Senate bill came to a long, tortuous end in the House.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus reportedly called Trump to tell him to soften the rhetoric Wednesday, but there's a risk in pushing him too far, former GOP congressman Tom Davis told CBS News.

"I think he strikes a chord with a lot of voters - probably not a majority but a significant piece of the electorate voicing some of their concerns," Davis said. Plus, he added, if the RNC angers Trump too much, he has enough money to run as an independent - and "most every vote" he gets will take away from the Republican candidate.

As the New York Times notes, Trump has plenty of supporters among conservative radio hosts and the people who tune into their shows every day.

"I have an incredible amount of admiration and respect for just this aspect of what Trump has done," Rush Limbaugh said on his show this week.

Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director at America's Voice, a Latino advocacy group, said Trump has merely clarified the chasm between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of immigration.

"He's exposed the fact that there's a faction of the Republican Party that believes this is true, that Mexicans come here to commit crimes," she told CBS News. "Its not a new phenomenon."

While Trump's remarks have shone a spotlight on the GOP's rift over immigration, they have also created some tension for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner.

Clinton's first response to Trump -- the one that helps her politically -- was to say Republicans are on a "spectrum of hostility" on the subject of immigration. She reiterated her support for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship, a position that is shared by many Latino voters.

But after a woman was shot and killed at a San Francisco pier by an unauthorized immigrant who had been deported five times, Trump used the incident to bolster his remarks about sealing off the southern border. That forced Clinton to address her previous support for "sanctuary cities" like San Francisco, where city personnel are not allowed to help the federal government with immigration-related law enforcement.

Clinton told CNN this week that the city of San Francisco "made a mistake" by not deporting Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, the man charged with the murder.

"He ends back up in our country, and I think the city made a mistake. The city made a mistake, not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported. So I have absolutely no support for a city that ignores the strong evidence that should be acted on," Clinton said.

In a 2007 debate, Clinton defended sanctuary cities by arguing that it was easier for local law enforcement to protect people if immigrants didn't fear sharing information because it might lead to their being deported.

Republican candidates Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson have all come out against sanctuary cities. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry weighed in on the issue Thursday evening, saying the federal government should cut off certain funds to states that refuse to shut down sanctuary cities.

Ultimately, Trump's comments have simply forced many of the candidates to reiterate their stances on immigration reform.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had to engage in a lengthy back-and-forth with host Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press" over the weekend, where Todd repeatedly tried to nail him down on what he would do about the more than 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. "I think we should secure the border and then have a conversation at that point," Cruz ultimately said, after many iterations of the question.

He also said, "I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration."

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said he disagreed with Trump's comments but that the businessman "points to a very important thing, which is we have a serious problem of illegal immigration in this country that is undermining American workers." Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham delved into what requirements they would put in place for giving undocumented immigrants legal status and citizenship, respectively.

Feehery said the Trump situation has been "pretty good" for someone like Jeb Bush who has pledged he would hold true to his less popular views during the primary election to win the general election. But he also warned that there's a danger in "overdoing on condemning Trump."

"He needs to do that, but he also needs to be able to find common ground with some of the folks Trump is appealing to," Feehery said. Though those voters probably won't pick Bush in a primary election, he'll need their votes if he becomes the GOP nominee.

Other GOP candidates have almost nothing to gain from Trump's proclamations about immigration. The politicians who are polling so poorly that they may not make it onto the debate stages suffer when someone else so thoroughly hogs the limelight.

"Right now he's sucking all the oxygen out of the race," Davis said. Feehery said the climate is "bad for other candidates who are trying to get some notoriety. If you're like a Rick Perry or even a Ted Cruz you're kind of lost in the glare of Donald Trump and that's probably not a place where they want to be."

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.