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New data from the U.S. Census Bureau highlights the dramatic increase of the Latino population over the past decade, in both traditional “gateway” states and throughout the nation, with Latinos now comprising more than 1 in 6 Americans. According to Associated Press analysis of the new data, minority population growth makes up 90 percent of the total U.S. population growth since 2000. As William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer, concluded:
The 2010 census shows vividly how these new minorities are both leading growth in the nation’s most dynamic regions and stemming decline in others.
From a political perspective, the new numbers should be a wake-up call for anti-immigrant politicians heading into the 2012 elections, with key Senate races and the Presidency at stake. Every available poll—and every election to date—has shown that Latino voters are turned off by candidates who espouse anti-immigrant views. Republican pollster Bob Moore explained his party’s dilemma to The Hill:
If this becomes an election all about the economy, there’s a major opening for a Republican candidate to appeal to Latino voters. But if it becomes about immigration, then it could be problematic for the Republican nominee.
Republicans in Congress are making immigration the issue. Anti-immigrant Republicans like Representatives Lamar Smith, Steve King, Elton Gallegly, and Senator Jeff Sessions are at the helm on immigration policy for the GOP on Capitol Hill. Combine that with the likelihood that the immigration issue will loom large in a number of Republican primaries, the GOP will be hard pressed to change the subject when talking to Latino voters.
The Census findings are the exact reason why Republicans should be very, very concerned that the “Three Amigos” of Smith, Gallegly and King are the ones defining the GOP agenda on immigration. With Spanish-language media covering their antics in real time, and with no Congressional Republican voices charting a different course for the Party on immigration, the GOP is becoming branded as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino by the fastest-growing group of voters in the nation.