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Rep. Elton Gallegly’s Immigration Strategy Is Damaging the Republican Party (Ask Meg Whitman)

by Frank Sharry on 04/13/2011 at 1:14pm

meg and eltonCalifornia’s 2010 GOP nominee for Governor, Meg Whitman, said this week that her party needs to change its rhetoric on immigration. Via the Los Angeles Times:

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said Tuesday that her party must change its approach on immigration if it wants to be successful in California.

“My view is that the immigration discussion, the rhetoric the Republican Party uses, is not helpful; it’s not helpful in a state with the Latino population we have,” Whitman said during a brief interview following a speech at a George W. Bush Institute conference on the economy. “We as a party are going to have to make some changes, how we think about immigration, and how we talk about immigration.”

She should know. The most reliable numbers on the 2010 elections came from an election eve poll of 3,200 Latino voters by Latino Decisions, a group that specializes in reaching Latino voters.  In California’s race for Governor. Whitman lost the Latino vote to Jerry Brown by a stunning margin of 86-13%. In the Senate race, the numbers were as equally astounding. Barbara Boxer beat Carly Fiorina among Latinos 86-14%.

Meanwhile, the most important Californian dealing with immigration is the one that most people have never heard of: Rep. Elton Gallegly. As the Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration, Gallegly is defining the GOP through his hard-line anti-immigration views. His efforts to pass a mass deportation strategy, couched as “attrition through enforcement,” could ruin the state’s economy – and his party’s prospects with Latino voters.

Amazingly, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Gallegly has also recently [wrongly] asserted that this hard-line approach is actually embraced by Latino voters, saying:

“Republican support is growing among Hispanic voters because Republicans agree with U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent that illegal immigration hurts all Americans.”   

That’s far from the truth on many levels. In recent Latino Decisions polling, 47% of Latino voters rank immigration as their top issue, and 52% of Latino voters say the Democrats are doing a good job reaching out to Hispanics, while only 18% say the same about the GOP.  Thirty-six percent of Latinos said that the GOP “doesn’t care too much” about Latinos and another 30% said the Party is “hostile.”  Latino Decisions polling during the 2010 elections found that immigration was either the “most important” or “one of the most important” factors in the political choices of at least 60% of Latino voters.

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