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CIS Study Rewrites History, Claims Immigration and Latino Vote Unimportant to 2008 Election



Part of Extremists’ Larger Effort to Fit ’08 Elections into Anti-Immigration Frame

From the folks who told you that immigrants are responsible for global warming comes the latest attempt to spin a facts-optional narrative to suit a pre-determined, anti-immigrant agenda.

The newest Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report, “Latino Vote in 2008: Part of a Broader Electoral Movement,” asserts that the immigration debate was not a factor in the mass exodus of Latino voters from the Republican Party in 2008, and that these voters are not as influential as everyone else believes.    

As usual with CIS products, the report relies on a mish-mash of conjecture and fuzzy math to support a pre-determined outcome – that immigration is bad and the Latino vote is unimportant. The new report is part of a larger effort among anti-immigrant groups to rewrite history to fit their extremist worldview, and prevent the Republican Party from learning the lessons of the November 2008 elections.  CIS allies will hold an event today at the National Press Club featuring notable anti-immigrant organizations and experts, making the case for a renewed Republican anti-immigration strategy and echoing the arguments of the Center for Immigration Studies report.

Also today, the Republican National Committee will choose a new chairman.  The Party’s stance on immigration reform and outreach to Latino voters is one of the first bears the new leader will have to wrestle to the ground.  As GOP insider John Feehery warned in the Washington Post yesterday: “I think we’re becoming a regional party.  It seems like we only want to appeal to Southerners.  We seem too far to the right, and I think we need to have a better understanding of principles that appeal to people in all 50 states.”  Hard to do when following the strategies advocated by anti-immigration organizations and leaders who have their heads in the sand about the changing face of American politics.     

“The Republican Party has a choice to make:  will it embrace change and the fastest-growing group of new voters -Latinos-or will it follow the same failed strategies of the past?” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.  “November 2008 had to be a wake-up call for the GOP, but it remains to be seen whether they are going to jump out of bed or roll over and hit the snooze button.  Latino voters proved that they can swing elections, and they demand respect.  Immigration is a defining issue for these voters because it is not just a policy matter, but a family matter.  And it is hard to convince voters that you’re on their side when you talk about the need to deport their loved ones, keep their children from getting health care, and making them prove over and over again that they belong in America.”    

America’s Majority, a right of center group, recently released a new study on the politics of immigration that reached the same conclusions as most other pundits and political analysts.  Their report, in line with other analysis available at, shows that the Republican rhetoric around immigration threatens to cause serious harm to the party brand if it doesn’t undergo a makeover-in direct contradiction to the CIS argument.   

“It’s quite audacious that the same folks who formed the intellectual backbone of the Tancredo for President campaign now think they have a credible pulse on what the Republican Party needs and the American people want,” said Tramonte.

Below, please find a brief summary of CIS report claims and related reality checks from America’s Voice:

Center for Immigration Studies “Latino Vote in 2008” Report: Claims and Reality Checks

  • CIS claim: Latinos don’t think immigration reform is a critical issue (“Credible surveys indicate that the major policy concerns of Latinos were no different than the concerns of non-Latinos: The economy and jobs topped the list“).


Reality Check: Like all Americans, Latinos think economic recovery should be job number one for the new Administration.  However in a recent Pew Hispanic Center poll, 88% of Latinos called immigration an important issue.  In fact, Latino immigrant voters made the largest swing from Republican to Democrat of any demographic group in the 2008 cycle – a fact that can only be explained by their close attention to the immigration debate and their opposition to the Republican Party’s handling of the immigration issue.  In 2004, Spanish-dominant Latino voters supported Kerry narrowly over Bush 52-48%. This group was a key factor in Bush’s strong showing among Latinos, winning between 40 and 44% of the overall Latino vote.  According to AV’s research, this year Spanish-dominant voters went for Obama over McCain 75-25%.  Another important subset, Latino evangelicals, also trended Democratic in 2008 and favored Obama by a 17-point margin in mid-October polling, despite having supported Bush 63% in 2004.

  • CIS claim: McCain’s low level of support among Latinos despite his past leadership on immigration shows that Latino voters don’t care about immigration (“McCain’s consistent history of advocating a legalization program for illegal immigrants made no impression on Latino voters“).


Reality Check: If it wasn’t for John McCain’s past leadership on immigration reform, Latino support for the GOP presidential candidate would have likely been much lower – closer to Bob Dole’s 21% in 1996.  The fact is, the Republican brand name is so tarnished among Latino audiences, due to the Party’s immigration positioning, that even subsets of the Latino vote that were up-for-grabs in 2004–such as evangelicals and Spanish-dominant voters–flocked overwhelmingly to Democratic candidates in 2008.  By a margin of 49-7%, Latinos thought the Democratic Party had more concern for Hispanics than Republicans in 2008.

  • CIS claim: The Latino vote is still fairly small and insignificant (“The size of the Latino voting population should be kept in perspective alongside other subsets of the electorate“).


Reality Check: Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S.; over 3 million more Latinos turned out in 2008 than in 2004; and they played a key role in turning states such as CO, NM, and NV from red to blue.  In addition, CIS forgets that Latinos are also members of the group’s “preferred” demographics (college graduates, weekly church-goers, conservatives, military families, etc) that are indeed larger in size than the Latino vote.  There’s no way around it: political parties ignore Latino voters at their own peril.

  • CIS claim: It wasn’t just Latinos that fled the GOP in 2008 (“The drop in Republican support among Latinos between 2004 and 2008 was part of a broad-based electoral movement away from the GOP“).


Reality Check: It is true that a broad array of Americans have been turned off by Republican demogaugery and political positioning on many issues, including the issue of immigration.  According to our polling, 66% of voters nationwide thought immigration was discussed too little during the 2008 election cycle and 57% said that immigration reform should be a high priority for the new Congress.  These results were echoed in battleground Congressional districts.  By a 56-6% margin, voters in swing districts said that the issue was discussed “too little” vs. “too much” in the 2008 cycle, and by a 46-15% margin they said “enacting immigration reform” is a high priority.  Unless the Party recognizes the broader public’s desire for leaders to work together to solve tough problems like illegal immigration, it may indeed be doomed to minority status as a regional Party for the foreseeable future.

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