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And the 2012 Winner Is…Immigration Reform

by Pili Tobar on 11/08/2012 at 2:28pm

As observers digest the 2012 election results, a consensus is emerging – from across the political spectrum – that both parties need to work together to pass common sense immigration reform.

The realization is sinking in that the overwhelming importance of Latino voters this cycle and the role of immigration in driving Latinos away from Republican candidates has been a game changer.  Moreover, the fact that most Americans favor immigration reform that includes a road to legal status and citizenship means that the American people as a whole, and not just Latinos, want both parties to step up and deal with our dysfunctional immigration process now.

Consider the response from all voters to this question asked in the network exit polls – “should most illegal immigrants working in the United States be offered a chance to apply for legal status or deported to country they came from?”  By a whopping 65%-28% margin, Americans support the “apply for legal status” option.

According to Frank Sharry:

The broad consensus in support of immigration reform is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that the nation’s two most influential editorial pages, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times – which rarely see eye-to-eye on any policy issue – both published editorials today urging Congress to enact sensible immigration reform.

Below are excerpts from the two editorials:

  • The Wall Street Journal editorializes, “In 2004, George W. Bush—an immigration-friendly Republican who spoke semi-passable Spanish—won re-election with about 40% of the Hispanic vote.  This year, immigration hardliner Mitt Romney got about 27% of the Hispanic vote, according to the main exit poll—four points fewer than John McCain in 2008.  Had Mr. Romney matched Mr. Bush’s Hispanic percentage, he could have netted an additional million votes or more, or nearly half of Barack Obama’s popular margin on Tuesday.  Those votes might have made a difference in states with large Hispanic populations such as New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Florida and even Virginia, all of which Mr. Bush won and Mr. Romney lost.   That’s something broken-hearted GOP voters should ponder as they try to make sense of their defeat. There are plenty of reasons Mr. Romney came up short, and yes, Hispanics are not single-issue voters.  But the antagonistic attitude that the GOP too often exhibits toward America’s fastest-growing demographic group on immigration policy goes far to explain Tuesday’s result.  It’s also so unnecessary. Immigrants should be a natural GOP constituency.  Newcomers to the U.S.—legal or illegal—tend to be aspiring people who believe in the dignity of work and self-sufficiency, and they are cultural conservatives.  They are not the 47%.  Republicans are also supposed to be the folks who have figured out the law of unintended consequences, such as that imposing ever-tighter border controls discourages the millions of illegal immigrants living in this country from returning home.  We have done our best over the years to explain such points, to which we would add that the free movement of labor is a central component of economic growth. Yet it has become near-orthodoxy among many conservatives to denounce every attempt at immigration reform as a form of ‘amnesty’—now as much a devil word on the right as ‘vouchers’ are on the left.  We understand the law-and-order issues at stake, particularly along the border, as well as questions of fairness in allowing illegals to jump the immigration queue.  But the right response isn’t mass deportation—as politically infeasible as it is morally repulsive.  It’s a rational, humane, bipartisan reform that broadens the avenues to legal immigration, both for those abroad and those already here.”
  • The New York Times editorializes, “Much can be said about what Mitt Romney’s fatal embrace of hard-core positions on immigration did to his share of the Hispanic vote. (It shriveled, to 27 percent, according to exit polls, compared with 44 percent for George W. Bush in 2004.)  Mr. Romney could have followed Mr. Bush’s moderation and won over many Latinos, but he lurched to the right, pushing xenophobic schemes for “self-deportation” and hailing Arizona as a model for immigration reform….For a party that has built itself up on explicit and implied appeals to xenophobia, cultural resentment and income-redistribution for the rich, ideological purity is not a long-term strategy for success….If the Republican Party turns away from self-destruction, it should do so for the right reasons.  America shouldn’t reform immigration because Republicans need to add slices to their shrinking loaf of Wonder Bread.  It should fix immigration because the system is broken and unjust and millions of people are suffering.”

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