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Today, at a live streamed panel at the University of New Mexico’s main campus, national political analysts, advocates, and community leaders from New Mexico discussed how Latino voters and the immigration issue will shape the presidential and Senate races in this state and beyond. Gabriel Sanchez, Associate Professor at the University of New Mexico and Director of Research for Latino Decisions, analyzed fresh polling of Latino voters in New Mexico from a poll conducted by Latino Decisions for America’s Voice.
In New Mexico and at the national level, Latino and new citizen voters are changing politics. With immigration high on the list of issues these voters want addressed, it’s no surprise that Republican candidates who have embraced hardline positions – including Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Senate nominee Heather Wilson — are faring poorly with New Mexico Latinos. By contrast, the embrace of common sense immigration reform by both President Barack Obama and Senate candidate Martin Heinrich have played a key role in Latino support for Democrats in presidential, Senate and House races.
Said Gabriel Sanchez, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of New Mexico and Director of Research for Latino Decisions: “One of the key findings in this poll was the importance Hispanic voters in New Mexico placed on immigration, with this policy coming in only second to the economy as the most important issue that Latino voters want addressed. We also found that nearly 60% of Latinos in the state of New Mexico know someone who is undocumented, and nearly half know someone who is eligible for the DREAM Act if passed. This to me implies that immigration has become personal to Latinos, which might explain the salience of the policy area among Latino voters.”
Christine Sierra, Professor of Political Science, University of New Mexico and Director, Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, said: “Today’s polling is crystal clear: immigration matters to Latino voters here in New Mexico. New Mexico Latinos support a reformed driver’s license bill, favor the President’s deferred action policy and enthusiasm is growing. Policymakers at both the state and national level should take note– when it comes to immigration policy, Latino voters are watching.”
Among the poll’s findings:
New Mexico Latinos Favor Democrats by Wide Margins
Candidates’ Immigration Positions Matter to New Mexico Latinos
Immigration is Not Just a Policy Issue: It’s Personal
New Mexico Latino Voters Strongly Support Driver’s License Compromise that Includes Stricter Requirements
Said Rafael Martinez, DREAM leader and Master’s student in American Studies: “President Reagan got it done in the second term. President Clinton complicated immigration policy further. President Bush regretted not pushing immigration in his second term further. Will Obama take it up the second time around? Dreamers and organizers have pushed and our voices will be heard this election. The stakes for immigrants have never been higher and we won’t stop pushing until we get the security we deserve.”
Patty Kupfer, Managing Director of America’s Voice, said: “While many believe that Latinos in New Mexico are too far removed from the immigrant experience to care about the issue, the poll reveals that nearly 60 percent have a friend, family member or co-worker who is undocumented. That’s not far removed. In fact, more than half of respondents said immigration is either the most or one of the most important issue to them in deciding their vote on November 6.” Kupfer added, “Mitt Romney held onto an extreme anti-immigrant position throughout the primary, advocating the self-deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, and now he has found himself 45 points behind with Latino voters and unable to compete in the state of New Mexico. There is certainly a correlation.”
Lucia Fraire, Field Director of Voter Program at Ole New Mexico, also spoke on the panel.