AMERICA'S VOICE RESEARCH ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

ELECTION CENTRAL: AMERICA’S VOICE BEST POST-ELECTION CONTENT

Published: 11/08/2012

The Fix on Immigration: American People Support Citizenship, Republicans “Hard-Pressed to Vote Against”

12/11/12 at 11:38 am

At The Fix, the Washington Post’s political blogger Chris Cillizza, took a close look at the new Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll (which we wrote about yesterday.) Cillizza came up with a number of “takeaways,” including this one on immigration:

People are ready for immigration reform. While it’s not a top-of-mind issue (see point No. 1 above), when prompted a large majority (62 percent) support “an immigration reform proposal that allows illegal or undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship over a period of several years.” Just 35 percent oppose such a measure. Asked whether they would support the children of illegal immigrants being allowed to stay permanently if they get a college degree or serve in the military — essentially the DREAM Act that has been proposed in Congress — 77 percent of people said they would back that measure.

What those numbers mean is that if President Obama moves an immigration proposal early next year, Republicans will be hard-pressed to vote against it.

Cillizza has his finger on the pulse of Washington conventional wisdom, and, in this case, conventional wisdom matches reality. On immigration reform with a path to citizenship, the American people want it, the Democrats (led by President Obama) promised it and Republicans need it.

Immigration Reform Means Citizenship, Because Americans Want It, Democrats Promised It, and Republicans Need It

12/10/12 at 4:57 pm

The ramp-up to the upcoming immigration reform legislative battle has started and will continue to play out in public over the coming months.  As America’s Voice Education Fund’s Executive Director Frank Sharrytold USA Today, the legislative “measures that pass are those are litigated in public, in a loud debate.”  However, despite the impending noise, the necessary components of the eventual solution are already clear and unequivocal – real immigration reform means a road to citizenship for 11 million immigrants.

“When it comes to citizenship, Americans want it, Democrats promised it, and Republicans need it,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund.  “Measures that stop short of full citizenship or focus on other aspects of the immigration system are not serious or sufficient alternatives.”

As recent analysis from Latino Decisions’ co-founder Gary Segura makes clear, the Latino voting electorate overwhelmingly views citizenship as an essential component of immigration reform.  Segura also notesthat for Latino voters, “the creation of a permanent alien class, guest workers or another form of residency that never turns into full social membership, is a non-starter.”

Meanwhile, a new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground poll finds that the American public also wants real immigration reform with a citizenship component.  Conducted by Democratic pollster Lake Research Partners and Republican pollster The Tarrance Group, the poll finds that by a 62%-35% margin, Americans want citizenship as part of an immigration reform solution.  As POLITICO highlights, “The national poll, conducted last week, finds more Republicans — 49 percent — support a path to citizenship than oppose it — 45 percent.  Democrats favor this approach 3-to-1, 74 percent to 24 percent.  And independents back it by a 26-point margin, 61 percent to 35 percent.”

Concluded Sharry, “The heart of any real immigration solution is clear – an opportunity for immigrants to gain full citizenship and participate freely in American life.”

New National Poll: 62% of Americans Support Immigration Reform With Path to Citizenship

12/10/12 at 1:11 pm

As politicians begin discussing immigration reform legislation for next year, one thing is crystal clear: citizenship is the solution. And according to a new national poll, a majority of the American people support it:

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground poll finds that 62 percent of those surveyed support an immigration reform proposal that would allow illegal or undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship over a period of several years. Thirty-five percent oppose it.

The national poll, conducted last week, finds more Republicans — 49 percent — support a path to citizenship than oppose it — 45 percent. Democrats favor this approach 3-to-1, 74 percent to 24 percent. And independents back it by a 26-point margin, 61 percent to 35 percent.

The poll reveals significantly greater overall support, 77 percent, for an immigration law that allows the children of illegal or undocumented immigrants to earn the right to stay here permanently if they complete a college degree or serve in the military. Just 19 percent oppose this key element of the so-called DREAM Act.

To be clear, this isn’t new. The post-election poll from the Washington Post/ABC News showed support for citizenship, too. What’s different this time is that politicians, particularly Republicans, are finally starting to grasp it.

One reason for that attention is, of course, the drubbing they took from Latino voters on Election Day. As Gary Segura from Latino Decisions recently explained quite succinctly, the only acceptable solution for Latinos is a path to citizenship:

Over the last 18 months, impreMedia and Latino Decisions repeatedly polled Latino registered voters specifically about their preferences regarding changes in US immigration policy. Based on that poll and our more recent work, here are our observations regarding the “must haves” in any comprehensive reform.

Meaningful adjustment of status with a path to citizenship. Latino voters, indeed ALL voters, prefer a comprehensive reform plan that includes a path to citizenship. For non-Latinos, the preferred path is an “earned” citizenship, which likely includes provisions regarding back taxes and learning English. But the bottom line is that the creation of a permanent alien class, guest workers or another form of residency that never turns into full social membership, is a non-starter.

In our June 2011 poll, 75% of Latino registered voters wanted a comprehensive approach with a path to citizenship while only 14% preferred a “guest worker” approach.

The American people are on board with citizenship for the 11 million. It’s what Latino voters want and expect. Now, it’s up to President Obama and the Democrats to keep their promise and for Republicans to address the immigration issue the right way — and stop letting the anti-immigrants in their party lead them off a demographic cliff.

Action is Inevitable as Momentum for Real Immigration Reform Keeps Building

12/07/12 at 2:24 pm

Since the 2012 election results rolled in, it’s been hard to keep track of all the momentum behind real immigration reform.  The immediate post-election developments included supportive comments from Republican Senators for real reform, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Rand Paul (KY), and the surprising backing of earned citizenship from Fox News television and radio host, Sean Hannity.  Yet the hits just keep on coming – just over the past week, we have seen continued support for reform from surprising sources and positive developments from the state and national perspectives alike:

  • At a forum hosted by the Harvard University Institute of Politics Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s campaign manageradmitted that the campaign’s decision to move to the hard right on immigration during the GOP primary was a political mistake.  As Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times writes, “When asked directly whether Mr. Romney regretted tacking to the right on immigration to appeal to conservative primary voters, the room fell silent…after pausing for several seconds, Mr. Rhoades said, ‘I regret that.’  He went on to explain that the campaign, in hindsight, had been too worried about a potential threat from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.”  Rhoades went on to add, “In retrospect, I believe that we could have probably just beaten Governor Perry with the Social Security hit.”  [And, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said on MSNBC that 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and current Rep. Paul Ryan told him “Luis, I want to do it because it’s the right thing. I don’t want to deal with it from a political point of view.”]
  • Former Republican U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, told Politico, “I think the fact that we send some of those people back and don’t give them the opportunity to participate here is wrong…I think we need to look at a simple fact: We are not having enough children to replace ourselves. Our country is not growing in population simply by the people that are here.”
  • Former Republican President George W. Bush re-iterated his support for immigration reform, stating: “America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time…As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contributions of immigrants.”

Leaders from across spectrum call for citizenship for 11 million immigrants.

  • A new national bipartisan coalition of religious, business and law-enforcement leaders met in Washington this week to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million Americans in waiting who don’t have papers.  Brad Bailey, a former member of the Republican Party of Texas Platform committee, joined the chorus of leaders from both sides of the aisle asking for reform: “I never thought I’d be asking for hope and change..But I hope and pray Congress will take this because change is what needs to happen.”  Echoed Mark Shutleff, Republican Utah Attorney General, “We have been pandering…to a small minority of our party…Now is the time to get this done.”
  •  At a conference convened by United We Dream last weekend, one of the leading organizations created of, by, and for DREAMers, the organization’s members made it clear that they are fighting not only for a path to full citizenship for themselves, but also for their parents, neighbors, and friends.  As UWD Managing Director Cristina Jimenez said, “We have an unprecedented opportunity to engage our parents, our cousins, our abuelitos in this fight.”  She was joined by DREAM leader Lorella Praeli whoasked Republicans, “Do you want your party to see the inside of the White House again? The Republican Party alienated Latino voters in ways they hadn’t done before…Our leverage is that our community is growing.”

Political commentators show that the moment for immigration reform is upon us—Americans support it.  Democrats promised it.  And Republicans need it.

  • Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director at National Journalwrites: “GOP reformers convincingly argue that the party is better off embracing reform that would at least ‘take the issue off the table’ and allow Republicans to engage Hispanics on other fronts…Immigration reform probably wouldn’t be sufficient to significantly improve the GOP’s standing with Hispanics. But it’s a necessary first step. And every journey begins with that.”
  • On Morning Joe, former aide to Republican President George W, Bush, Mark McKinnon said that the looming demographic cliff is finally leading Republicans to engage on this issue: “I’m very encouraged about the prospects for immigration reform.  I think one of the good things about Republicans losing is it’s forcing them to the table on immigration reform.”
  • In a post entitled, “Why the GOP needs Jeb — right now,” Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post writes: “There is no more pressing electoral problem for Republicans than the party’s seeming inability to make any real inroads in the Hispanic community. Republicans have to show that they are more than the party of self-deportation and border fences, and the best way to do that is to show up in Hispanic communities with GOP politicians who get that. Bush won nearly half of the Hispanic vote in his 1998 reelection governor, a rare instance of a Republican showing strength in that community. Imagine Bush, Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval doing a series of immigration events in Latino-areas around the country. It would draw huge amounts of press attention and maybe, just maybe, convince some Latino voters to give Republicans a second look.”

And at the state level, a new sentiment on immigration reform is emerging that is directly at odds with the “papers, please” approach from the recent past.

  • Arizona: A new coalition of national and local leaders in Arizona, called the “Real Arizona Coalition,” introduced a new immigration reform framework this week, specifically designed to target enforcement-only legislation, like S.B 1070.  According to the Arizona Republic: “Dubbed the Solution to Federal Immigration Reform, or SANE, the plan calls for continuing to strengthen border security and focus on immigration enforcement but also letting illegal immigrants earn legal status and revamping the nation’s visa system so immigrants can come legally to fill labor demands.”
  • North Carolina: The Charlotte Observer reports that a special state House panel on immigration was brought to a quick close yesterday without providing any major legislative direction, instead recommending that lawmakers enact a resolution in the next session “urging the state’s congressional delegation to revise federal immigration laws and enforce security along its borders.  The Observer states that the fact that the panel did not take matters into its own hands by recommending state-level legislation shows that they are “reticent to follow the lead of other states by cracking down on illegal immigrants.”
  • Wisconsin: Similarly, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker walked back from his previous pro-SB 1070 stances and told reporters that an immigration law “would be a huge distraction for us in the state…  I don’t think that falls into one of those priorities, so I would certainly hope that the legislature didn’t spend time focusing on that, instead focused on the economy.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham Argues for Full Citizenship and Integration of Immigrants

12/05/12 at 5:34 pm

In an interview with CQ yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reiterated his support for comprehensive immigration reform and even “suggested that he could support citizenship…with preconditions, including an emphasis on granting citizenship first to immigrants who are currently waiting to receive it,” writes CQ reporter, John Gramlich.  Said Graham, “I don’t like the European model of having millions of people in our country who can’t assimilate. It’s just not good for the culture. It’s just not good policy.”

According to new polling analysis by America’s Voice Education Fund, voters agree.

Graham’s comments come in the wake of the political drubbing that Republicans received from Latino voters in last month’s election.  After much analysis and chatter from the political punditry, the new emerging consensus on immigration reform is that Democrats want it and Republicans need it.

Numerous recent polls reveal that voters in general–including but not limited to Latinos–don’t see citizenship for undocumented immigrants as controversial, but common-sense.  While enforcement is important, it’s also already happening.  The missing piece is a program for citizenship and integration.

Among the highlights:

  • Immigration is Personal for Latinos: An ImpreMedia-Latino Decisions election eve poll found that 60 percent of all Latino voters know someone who is undocumented, and 25 percent know someone who is either facing deportation or has been deported.
  • Voters Show Overwhelming Support for Legal Status: According to a 2012 network exit poll, 65% of Americans said that they believe undocumented immigrants should be “offered a chance to apply for legal status.”
  • Majority of Americans Support a Pathway to Citizenship: A November 2012 post-election poll conducted by ABC News/Washington Post asked the question: Do you support or oppose a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants? Overall, 57% support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while 39% are opposed.
  • When given a choice, voters view citizenship is the preferred option: In two New York Times/CBS polls, 64% of Americans supported legalization in February and again in June 2012.  Less than a third selected deportation.  In both polls, two-thirds of those who supported legalization preferred full citizenship rather than temporary status.

For Latino voters, the question of offering undocumented immigrants full citizenship or some sort of lesser status is fundamental.  As pollster Gary Segura recently wrote:

Latinos voters are simply not going to be happy with an outcome that keeps Latino immigrants on the margins of society. And if the GOP is identified as the key obstacle stopping a path to citizenship for Latino immigrants, the party will have accomplished little towards Sean Hannity’s goal of getting the issue behind them.

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

At its heart, the immigration reform debate isn’t about a fence, it is about family.  The upcoming immigration fight will be fought by strong individuals and strong families who believe that this country is the greatest nation in the world, which can best live up to its promise by changing its immigration policy and creating a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million hardworking immigrants who already consider themselves Americans. That’s the position supported by all voters, not just Latinos.

View the new America’s Voice Education Fund polling analysis here:http://act.americasvoiceonline.org/pollingforcitizenship 

The Sea-Change in Colorado

12/05/12 at 12:42 pm

A month seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the outcome of Colorado’s 2012 general election and the role of Latino voters in both the Presidential and state-level contests.  In many respects, the election reflected a continuation of the state politics apparent in 2008 and the 2010 midterms.  Coloradoan’s sent all of their incumbent U.S. House members back to Washington.  Obama won the suburbs, and ultimately the overall state by 5.4% of the vote (51.5% vs. 46.1% for Romney).  And, while the win was smaller than in 2008 (Obama won by 8.9% four years ago), the general patterns of support were reflected in this year’s contest.

At the same time, an argument could be made that the election resulted in a sea-change in Colorado politics.  Colorado passed Amendment 64, which will result in the legalization of the possession and sale of marijuana.  However, the high profile nature of this policy shift may obscure several more important changes to come in Colorado that resulted, both directly and indirectly, from this past election.  I’d like to highlight a few of these below with particular attention to the role of, and effects on, Latinos in the electorate.

The Democrats now control Colorado’s state legislature.  The Democrats took control of the lower chamber from the Republicans, and now can command the legislative agenda that stalled significant policy proposals for civil unions and the creation of special tuition rates at institutions of higher learning for undocumented immigrants.   As I noted a few months ago, the Republican’s obstruction of these bills in the 2012 legislative session may have hurt them in the polls, and at least did not help them carry Latino voters who overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates.  Leaders of the Democratic caucus in Colorado have pledged to fast-track civil unions and one should expect the tuition rate issue to pass early in the session as well.  And as tangential evidence of the Democrat’s support of the tuition policy, prominent Democrats in Colorado’s U.S. House delegation recently commended my home institution, Metropolitan State University of Denver, for its introduction of a new tuition rate for “DREAMers.”  It is hard to imagine the undocumented tuition rate failing once again in the legislature under these conditions.

Another important change in Colorado politics is the diversity of the legislature.  When the Colorado General Assembly convenes in January of 2013, the makeup of the House and Senate will include 12 Latino and five African American legislators—highpoints for both groups.  Colorado’s diversifying state legislature reflects new gains nationally at the Congressional level, particularly in terms of a record 31 Latinos expected to serve in the upcoming session.  These gains should translate into more representation of the interests of minority constituents (here is some recent work done by myself and Eric Gonzalez Juenke on Latino legislators and both groups at the state legislative level).   Thus, not only has party control shifted towards Latino interests, but the diversity of elite decision-makers has as well. (Colorado will also have a record number of openly gay legislators, and its first openly gay Speaker of the House in 2013).

How has this come about?  Well, one answer is that Latinos in this election solidified and expanded their political influence in Colorado in 2012.  The election eve polls conducted by Latino Decisions indicated that almost 87% of Colorado Latinos (see figure below) supported Obama in Colorado and 88% supported the Democrat in Congressional elections.

Those numbers are staggering.  Combine this overwhelming support for Democrats with what The Pew Center estimates as 14% of the electorate (up from 8% in 2004), and Latinos have become a key constituency for Democratic success in Colorado.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that Latinos accounted for a whopping 12% of the President’s 54% of the vote (more than double his margin of victory).  Questions of Latino mobilization and affect all fell by the wayside on November 6th.  From here on out, it is hard to imagine a Colorado policy issue that will not be framed at least in part by the question of how Latinos will be affected by, and what are Latino preferences on, the issue.  This, in many ways, represents a sea-change—and one that is in great part a function of the political participation of the Latino community in Colorado.

President George W. Bush: Lawmakers Should Debate Immigration With a “Benevolent Spirit” and “Keep in Mind the Contributions of Immigrants”

12/04/12 at 4:47 pm

Since the election last month, when Mitt Romney lost the Latino vote to President Obama by more than a 3-1 margin, Republicans who acknowledge that the party must do better with immigration and Latino voters have mainly fallen into two camps.

There is the camp of the token proposal, which has pushed out legislation like Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)’s STEM Jobs bill, which—in the words of President Obama—does not meet “long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.”  And then there is the camp led by members of the Bush family, which supports the kind of immigration legislation pushed by President Bush in 2006-2007, which would create a path to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring citizens here without papers.

It was the latter kind of idea that former President George W. Bush himself advocated this morning, in a short Dallas speech that marked one of his first public appearances since leaving office nearly four years ago.  In the past, the former President has said that not being able to pass immigration reform was one of his greatest regrets about his term in office.

“America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time,” Bush said today, according to the Dallas Morning News.  “They invigorate our soul.”

He continued:

Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas.  They fill a critical gap in our labor markets.  And they work hard for a chance at a better life…

Growing up here in Texas, like many in this room, I had the honor and privilege of meeting the newly arrived. Those who I’ve met love their families. They see education as a bright future for their children. Some willingly defend the flag…

As our nation debates the proper course of action related to immigration. I hope do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contributions of immigrants.

We hope so, too.

Mitt Romney Campaign Manager: I Regret Going Hard Right on Immigration

12/04/12 at 2:58 pm

Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, has added his voice to the ranks of other Republicanslamenting choices the Party made on immigration.  At a forum hosted by the Harvard University Institute of Politics and reported on yesterday, Rhoades admittedthat the campaign’s decision to move to the hard right on immigration during the GOP primary was a political mistake.  As Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times writes:

When asked directly whether Mr. Romney regretted tacking to the right on immigration to appeal to conservative primary voters, the room fell silent…after pausing for several seconds, Mr. Rhoades said, ‘I regret that.’  He went on to explain that the campaign, in hindsight, had been too worried about a potential threat from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

When Perry and Gingrich came onto the scene, Romney doubled down on immigration by embracing the policy wish-list of advisors Kris Kobach and Rep. Steve King – promising to veto the DREAM Act, applauding the draconian Arizona approach to immigration, and most notably, supporting the radical notion of ‘self-deportation.’

He did this despite the fact that polls of early caucus and primary voters showed more alignment with a moderate approach to immigration than the one espoused by Romney.  “In retrospect, I believe that we could have probably just beaten Governor Perry with the Social Security hit,” Rhoades said according to the New York Times.

No one is crediting Romney’s immigration stance for his win in the primary, but numerous pundits and party operatives are admitting that his immigration stance drove away Latino voters in the general election and may have cost him the presidency.

Conventional wisdom used to hold that resolving the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. was the most controversial part of immigration reform.  In fact, this policy is not controverisal but common-sense: the American people are broadly supportive of tackling it.  According to the 2012 network exit polls, 65% of Americans said that undocumented immigrants “should be offered a chance to apply for legal status,” while only 28% said that they should be “deported to the country they came from.”  On this issue, voters are far more pragmatic than some have believed.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

What happened in the Romney campaign should serve as yet another reminder that how you propose to handle the status of undocumented immigrants matters.  Real immigration reform means putting the 11 million Americans-in-waiting on the road to full citizenship and nothing less.  There is broad support for a path to citizenship among all voters, including–but not limited–to Latinos.  If Romney had made a different choice on immigration during the primary, we may have seen a different outcome in the race.

In a candid moment, Romney’s campaign manager admitted that demagoguing on the immigration issue was a mistake.  That’s a start.  If the Republicans in Congress are similarly honest in evaluating what went wrong and how to fix it, they’ll do the right thing and work with the Democrats to help pass a path to citizenship in Congress.

Note to GOP: The Lamar Smith Political Strategy on Immigration Has Failed

12/04/12 at 11:33 am

After the drubbing Republicans took from Latino voters in the 2012 elections, some of the party’s leaders began to talk openly about the stark choice they face: appeal to a diversifying America, or risk extinction as a national party.

This isn’t just a political choice, it’s a policy choice too. Already we’re seeing signs that the old guard is still in charge of the Republican immigration strategy in the House.

Let’s be clear: Mitt Romney’s self-deportation platform came straight from the playbook of Rep. Lamar Smith and his Kansas crony Kris Kobach. That’s the same Member of Congress who championed the notorious 1996 anti-immigrant laws and who called the DREAM Act an “a nightmare for the American people” in 2010. He was the guy in charge of immigration policy for the House before the election, and he’s still in charge today.

On Nov. 30, the House passed the Smith-crafted immigration bill that kills the diversity visa program and transfers those visas over to high-skilled immigrants. In a post titled “A Bad Start on Immigration Reform,” Lawrence Downes from The New York Times examines the “STEM” bill and exposes Smith’s cynical deception:

Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is offering a new version of an old immigration bill that’s due to be voted on this week. It’s being touted by supporters as a signal that the Republican Party understands the election message sent by voters — particular Latinos and Asians — in favor of immigration reform.Don’t be fooled. The resurrected STEM Jobs Act is a tweaked version of a bad bill that died earlier this year in the House, and it’s bad for the same reasons as before. The bill increases visas for immigrants skilled in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — by eliminating another visa category entirely: the “diversity” visas set aside for people from countries with relatively low immigration rates to the United States.

Here’s the math: Add 55,000 new visas for immigrants with advanced STEM degrees. Take away 55,000 diversity visas. A zero-sum game, in pro-immigrant disguise.

Why rob Peter to pay Paul? Because that is how Lamar Smith operates. He is exploiting the high-tech community’s legitimate need for more green cards in a way that pits constituencies against each other, gives the back of the hand to lower-skilled immigrants from diverse backgrounds and, over time, actually reduces overall legal immigration levels.

While Smith’s new bill includes a provision on family-based immigration in order to appear reasonable, the devil is in the details. Crafted without input from Democrats or immigration advocates, the provision allows some relatives of legal residents to enter the country sooner, but with fewer rights than current law. Still others who can currently immigrate legally are cut out completely. As a result, the bill stands little chance of getting approved.

We just had an election where the Lamar Smith approach to immigration policy was adjudicated and failed. The policies and rhetoric of Smith and his allies ignored our nation’s diversity, drove Latino voters into the arms of Democrats, cost the GOP a chance at the White House and the Senate and reduced GOP ranks in the House. And now, their first act on immigration is to move a Smith-crafted immigration bill that eliminates the diversity visa program? If this is the ‘new’ Republican strategy on immigration, it sure looks a lot like the old Republican strategy on immigration.

Lawrence Downes is right: If the Republicans are going to offer real immigration reform, they will have to do better than this.

And, we’ll know House Republicans are serious about real immigration reform when Lamar Smith isn’t writing their bills. For now, unfortunately, they still seem willing to follow Smith off the demographic cliff.

On Immigration Reform, Republicans Need to Go Big or Lose Big

11/30/2012 at 2:14pm

Some Republicans get it.  Because of the party’s historic losses among Latino voters in the 2012 elections they are calling for the GOP to adopt a new brand image on immigration.  Some still don’t get it.  These Republicans seem to hope that they can do something that looks like immigration reform and address their demographic and political problems.

For example, just today most House Republicans voted for Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) STEM bill, legislation that would result in the elimination of an entire category of legal immigration in order to increase the number of visas for high-skilled workers.  And earlier this week, retiring Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced the ACHIEVE Act, a more restrictive alternative to the DREAM Act that notably would not provide a sure path to citizenship for qualified individuals.

These faux reform attempts just won’t cut it – especially if one of the party’s objectives is to get right with Latino voters.  Yesterday, Lionel Sosa, a Republican strategist who worked for George W. Bush and John McCain, issued these strong words for his party:

“We don’t see that the electorate is changing and we need to make changes. The longer we send out messages that Latinos take some offense to, the longer it’s going got take us to recover the Latino vote.”

He’s right.  As a new analysis this week from Latino Decisions co-founder and Stanford University professor Gary Segura makes clear, not only will immigration half-measures fail to adequately address immigration policy needs, but they also won’t solve Republicans’ political problems.  Writes Segura:

“Latinos voters are simply not going to be happy with an outcome that keeps Latino immigrants on the margins of society.  And if the GOP is identified as the key obstacle stopping a path to citizenship for Latino immigrants, the party will have accomplished little towards Sean Hannity’s goal of getting the issue behind them.  Should the GOP lead a bill with too many punitive measures, or should the bill pass with little GOP support, any electoral advantage that might come to the GOP from moving the immigration issue forward could be lost or, worse, backfire.  Our election eve poll found that 31% of our respondents would be more likely to support a Republican if the party took the lead on reforming immigration.  Electoral benefits, alas, will require constructive action.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

Republicans who are trying to find a way to do something less than putting 11 million undocumented immigrants on the road to citizenship should recognize that they either go big or lose big.  The Latino vote is the fastest growing segment of the electorate in America.  50,000 young Latinos turn 18 every month.  And the plight of the 11 million Americans-in-waiting is a defining issue for a majority of these voters.  If the GOP doesn’t work to share credit on full immigration reform with full citizenship for the 11 million, the GOP’s Latino problem quickly will become an existential crisis.

More Conservative Voices Highlight the Need for Full Immigration Reform with Full Citizenship

11/29/2012 at 3:18pm

As the legislative debate around immigration percolates, the issue of what constitutes real reform is at the heart of the discussion.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

Real immigration reform means putting 11 million undocumented immigrants on the road to full citizenship.  We will continue to fight for it until we win it, and victory is a matter of when, not if.  What this means for the Republican Party is that the only way they can share credit on immigration reform and regain their competitiveness with Latino voters is to rip the Band-Aid off now – and support a path to citizenship for the 11 million Americans-in-waiting in this Congress.

While some in the GOP seem to be suggesting that the best approach is to offer status without citizenship for some number of undocumented immigrants, another group of Republican and conservative leaders have expressed their support for passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  These include GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Rand Paul, as well as conservative Fox News television and radio host, Sean Hannity.  Yesterday, others on the right side of the aisle seem to be lining up for full reform, with full citizenship:

  • Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), a longtime supporter for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, told the Los Angeles Times, “Piecemeal parts are better than nothing but [don’t] solve the overall problem.”
  • Jon Huntsman, former Utah Governor and Republican presidential contender, shared “his vision for the Republican Party going forward” in an interview with Sam Stein of the Huffington Post.  Writes Stein: “He called for neo-conservatism to be sidelined, for states’ rights on issues like gay marriage to be respected, for comprehensive immigration reform to be pursued.”
  • Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post’s conservative political blogger, writes, “this is one issue in which starting small may be an error. ‘Comprehensive’ immigration reform got a bad name when last it went down the drain in 2007. But arguably the GOP and certainly the country has changed since then. If you are going to go to the trouble of devising a proposal and take on the anti-immigration forces to jump-start the process, it makes sense to go bold.  The 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States should be addressed in a GOP plan, understanding that one always wants to leave a little room for bargaining. But to try to sidestep that issue while border security, worksite enforcement, H1-B visas and other discrete issues are addressed is not realistic….Republicans did nothing on health care for years at the national level. This allowed the Democrats to make it their issue and eventually gave us the abomination known as Obamacare. Immigration, if left to Democrats, will either become their issue permanently and a policy nightmare or, alternatively, an opportunity for conservative reformers to show they can govern effectively and realistically while hewing to conservative principles. All the GOP needs are real leaders to step up to the plate.”

Added Sharry:

The Republican Party has a huge decision to make – they can be the obstacle to reform or they can be part of the solution.  How they decide will determine their future as a national party. If they think they can solve their problem by supporting proposals that offer less than full citizenship to the 11 million undocumented Americans currently settled in America, they will find themselves with a lot of explainin’ to do.  Taking the position that Latino immigrants are only good enough for a second-class non-citizenship status is no way to get right with the growing Latino population.

For a full compilation of Republican and conservative movement leaders calling for immigration reform, click herehttp://act.americasvoiceonline.org/GOPSupport

Latino Voters Are Not Buying What the GOP Immigration Bills  Are Selling

11/28/2012 at 2:48pm

For a Republican Party in need of a new brand image on immigration and a big change with Latino voters, their initial legislative efforts are not measuring up to the depths of their challenges.

Yesterday, retiring Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced the ACHIEVE Act, a more restrictive alternative to the DREAM Act that notably would not provide a path to citizenship for qualified individuals.  One of the leading DREAMer organizations, United We Dream, called ACHIEVE “a cynical ploy” and reiterated their insistence on “a roadmap to citizenship for the entire community.”

Separate from the GOP-sponsored ACHIEVE Act in the Senate, House Republicans are moving forward on Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) STEM bill, legislation that would result in the elimination of an entire category of legal immigration, the diversity visa program, in order to increase the number of visas for high-skilled workers.  The New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes characterized the Smith STEM package as “an old strategy, repackaged. If the Republicans are going to offer real immigration reform, they will have to do better than this.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund said:

We welcome Republicans coming forward with new immigration proposals, but the operative word is ‘new.’  We had an election.  If Republicans in Congress really do get that they have a Latino problem and want to address it, they need to make bold changes rather than simply rewarming their old ideas.

As a new analysis from Latino Decisions makes clear, not only will immigration half-measures fail to address our policy challenges, but they won’t solve Republicans’ political problems either.  In a new post titled, “What Latinos Want – Immigration Reform Bill,” Latino Decisions co-founder and Stanford University professor Gary Segura looks at the past 18 months of Latino Decisions polling data to determine what Latino voters want from immigration legislation.  Segura writes:

“Meaningful adjustment of status with a path to citizenship.  Latino voters, indeed ALL voters, prefer a comprehensive reform plan that includes a path to citizenship.  For non-Latinos, the preferred path is an “earned” citizenship, which likely includes provisions regarding back taxes and learning English.  But the bottom line is that the creation of a permanent alien class, guest workers or another form of residency that never turns into full social membership, is a non-starter.

In our June 2011 poll, 75% of Latino registered voters wanted a comprehensive approach with a path to citizenship while only 14% preferred a “guest worker” approach.  In November of 2011, we asked the same question to a sample of all American registered voters, regardless of race and ethnicity.  We found then that 58% of all registered voters (including 53% of self-identified Republicans) favored a path to citizenship, while only 14% preferred the guest worker approach and only 25% favored deportation.  Curiously, Fox News repeated our question on their December 2011 poll and found the same results—although support for a path to citizenship was actually higher in Fox’s poll among all citizens and Republicans alike!

Latinos voters are simply not going to be happy with an outcome that keeps Latino immigrants on the margins of society.  And if the GOP is identified as the key obstacle stopping a path to citizenship for Latino immigrants, the party will have accomplished little towards Sean Hannity’s goal of getting the issue behind them.  Should the GOP lead a bill with too many punitive measures, or should the bill pass with little GOP support, any electoral advantage that might come to the GOP from moving the immigration issue forward could be lost or, worse, backfire.  Our election eve poll found that 31% of our respondents would be more likely to support a Republican if the party took the lead on reforming immigration.  Electoral benefits, alas, will require constructive action.”

Segura marshals recent Latino Decisions polling data to demonstrate that Latino voters also favor “Reasonable, but not excessive, prerequisites to status adjustment” and “More generous treatment of ‘Dream’-eligible youth.”

Latino Decisions: What Latinos Want from 2012 Elections

11/28/2012 at 11:35am

The results of the 2012 election have awakened the Republican Party to their impending demographic disaster. Substantial growth in the size and power of the Latino vote—and an overwhelming tilt in that vote against their nominee—paints a bleak future for Republican electability. Coupled with startling Democratic vote share among Asian Americans (73%), and an ever more resolute and motivated African American vote, demography may be destiny for the GOP.

For both Latinos and Asian Americans, immigration looms large as an impediment to GOP improvement in these communities. This reality—long denied by both parties—has become abundantly clear. In impreMedia/Latino Decisions’ Election Eve polling 57% of Latino voters said that Romney’s positions on immigration made them “less enthusiastic” about the Governor. Among Asian American Voters in our Asian Decisions Election Eve survey, an identical number, 57%, reported favoring comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. In our collaborative poll for the NAACP, 80% of African American voters in four battlegrounds states favored the same comprehensive approach.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, Senators Schumer and Graham announced that they had reinitiated negotiations, while pundits as surprising as Sean Hannity announced that the GOP had to get the immigration issue “behind” them.

This development inevitably raises the question of what Latino voters want in an immigration reform effort. To accomplish Hannity’s hope of putting the issue to rest, it would do the GOP little good to deliver an immigration outcome with widespread Latino opposition. That will be a difficult temptation to resist, however, since strong resistance to immigration and immigration reform among certain quarters of the GOP will push to have the legislation deliver as little as possible.

Over the last 18 months, impreMedia and Latino Decisions repeatedly polled Latino registered voters specifically about their preferences regarding changes in US immigration policy. Based on that poll and our more recent work, here are our observations regarding the “must haves” in any comprehensive reform.

Meaningful adjustment of status with a path to citizenship. Latino voters, indeed ALL voters, prefer a comprehensive reform plan that includes a path to citizenship. For non-Latinos, the preferred path is an “earned” citizenship, which likely includes provisions regarding back taxes and learning English. But the bottom line is that the creation of a permanent alien class, guest workers or another form of residency that never turns into full social membership, is a non-starter.

In our June 2011 poll, 75% of Latino registered voters wanted a comprehensive approach with a path to citizenship while only 14% preferred a “guest worker” approach. In November of 2011, we asked the same question to a sample of all American registered voters, regardless of race and ethnicity. We found then that 58% of all registered voters (including 53% of self-identified Republicans) favored a path to citizenship, while only 14% preferred the guest worker approach and only 25% favored deportation. Curiously, Fox news repeated our question on their December 2011 poll and found the same results—although support for a path to citizenship was actually higher in Fox’s poll among all citizens and Republicans alike!

Immigration Policy Preferences

Latinos voters are simply not going to be happy with an outcome that keeps Latino immigrants on the margins of society. And if the GOP is identified as the key obstacle stopping a path to citizenship for Latino immigrants, the party will have accomplished little towards Sean Hannity’s goal of getting the issue behind them. Should the GOP lead a bill with too many punitive measures, or should the bill pass with little GOP support, any electoral advantage that might come to the GOP from moving the immigration issue forward could be lost or, worse, backfire.  Our election eve poll found that 31% of our respondents would be more likely to support a Republican if the party took the lead on reforming immigration.  Electoral benefits, alas, will require constructive action.

Reasonable, but not excessive, prerequisites to status adjustment: The debate over comprehensive immigration reform is also likely to produce considerable disagreement regarding the requirements to adjust status for those already living in the US without documents. In June 2011, we asked a sample of Latino registered voters what their views were with respect to several of the provisions debated in the 2006 and 2007 efforts.

Specific Immigration Reform Policy Preferences Among Latino Voters

Latino voters are very comfortable with requirements regarding old or outstanding taxes, criminal background checks, continuous residence in the US and the learning of English. The community is more or less evenly divided on a provision for directly fining people, and a majority oppose touch-back provisions that requires undocumented residents of the US to return to nations of origin to complete the paperwork process.

More generous treatment of “Dream”-eligible youth. By now, the polling in all aspect of American society is well understood. Americans by very large margins are uncomfortable and unhappy with subjecting minors with punitive measures when they committed no violation of their own. In November of 2011, 58% of all voters regardless of race or ethnicity supported the Dream Act, compared with only 28% opposed. Among Latinos, the numbers were 84% support to 11% opposition.

The Dream Act as a stand-alone measure is popular but would not, by itself, solve the GOP problem with Latino voters. In the presence of a more comprehensive reform, however, young people brought to the US by their parents, who are achieving, should receive more favorable treatment under a comprehensive plan.

Majorities of all Americans, even a majority of all Republicans, favor a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that includes a path to US citizenship. Similarly, large majorities of all Americans see immigrant youth—blameless for their presence is the US –deserve more favorable treatment. And there is considerable consensus among Latino voters regarding reasonable requirements for status adjustment.

Donald Trump: Romney Lost Election Because of “Crazy,” “Maniacal” Self-Deportation Policy

11/27/2012 at 5:49pm

After the election this month—when President Obama won the Latino vote by a 75-23% margin,conservatives of all stripes have been coming out of the woodwork to admit that the loss of the Latino vote doomed Republicans this year, and that the GOP must do better with this demographic or else face irrelevance.

The latest to throw in his two cents?  None other than almost-presidential candidate, reality TV star, and orange-American Donald Trump, who toldNewsmax yesterday that Mitt Romney lost among certain voting groups in part because of his “maniacal” immigration policy.  As the Huffington Postquotes Trump:

He had a crazy policy of self-deportation, which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote … He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.

Trump further said that Democrats might not have a particular plan for immigration reform, but at least “they weren’t mean-spirited about it.”

Trump might not be the most credible character around–this year, he’s spent time in the news for doubting the President’s birth certificate and calling for a post-election “revolution,” among other things.  But when it comes to immigration, he’s had a history of at least sometimes having the right ideas.  Here’s what he said during an appearance on Fox News this summer:

For people that have been here for years that have been hard-workers, have good jobs, they’re supporting their family — it’s very, very tough to just say, ‘By the way, 22 years, you have to leave. Get out.  I’m one of the world’s very conservative people, but I have to tell you on a human basis, how do you throw somebody out that’s lived in this country for 20 years.

That’s more than we can say about Mitt “self-deportation” Romney or his failure of an adviser Kris Kobach.

After Rebuke from Diversifying American Electorate, House GOP’s First Move is to Kill Diversity Visa

11/26/2012 at 6:05pm

Immediately following the 2012 elections, Republicanleaders began to talk openly about the stark choice they face as a party: appeal to a diversifying America, or risk extinction as a national party.  Evidently, the House GOP missed the memo.  After an election in which immigration hard liners helped define and defeat Mitt Romney, immigration hard liners are pursuing the elimination of a program that – you guessed it – promotes diversity in our immigration visa system.

This week, the House will vote on a “STEM” bill written by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).  It eliminates a whole category of “diversity visas” and redirects them to foreign students who graduated from American schools with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.  Why rob Peter to pay Paul?  Because this is Smith’s style.  He is exploiting the high-tech community’s legitimate need for more green cards in a way that pits constituencies against each other, reduces overall legal immigration levels and gives the back of the hand to lower-skilled immigrants from diverse backgrounds.

While Smith’s new bill includes a provision on family-based immigration in order to appear reasonable, the devil is in the details.  Crafted without Democratic input, the provision allows some relatives of legal residents to enter the country sooner, but with fewer rights than current law.  Still others who can currently immigrate legally are cut out completely.   As a result, the bill stands little chance of getting approved.

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund;

We just had an election where the Lamar Smith approach to immigration policy was adjudicated and failed.  The policies and rhetoric of Smith and his allies ignored our nation’s diversity, drove Latino voters into the arms of Democrats, cost the GOP a chance at the White House and the Senate andreduced GOP ranks in the House.  And now, their first act on immigration is to move a Smith-crafted immigration bill that eliminates the diversity visa program?  If this is the ‘new’ Republican strategy on immigration, it sure looks a lot like the old Republican strategy on immigration.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Calls on Democrats to Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform

11/26/2012 at 12:08pm

When Rahm Emanuel served in Congress, he was also the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He was not particularly helpful when it came to immigration reform–in fact, he was often hostile. Here’s what then-Congressman Emanuel said about the issue back in October of 2007:

For the American people, and therefore all of us, [immigration has] emerged as the third rail of American politics. And anyone who doesn’t realize that isn’t with the American people.

His insight was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.  Fortunately, Emanuel–now mayor of Chicago–has come to realize this, and changed his tune on the need for immigration reform.  What a difference five years–and an election that showed the power of Latino voters who care deeply about immigration reform–makes.

Over the weekend, Mayor Emanuel penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, which included this line:

While Republicans are likely to become less intransigent on immigration, Democrats need to push for comprehensive immigration reform to ensure that, true to our history, we continue to be the party of opportunity and inclusion.

The fact that Democrats need to push for and pass immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented people living in the U.S. isn’t new. Some have been working on it for years, decades even. But for a long time, they’ve been met with obstinate opposition on both sides of the aisle. Fortunately, that’s changing.

So, welcome to the team, Rahm. Better late than never.

 —

Another Good Weekend for Immigration Reform Prospects

11/19/2012 at 1:25 PM

Immigration reform has cemented its status as the first non-fiscal/budgetary issue on the post-inauguration agenda, with backing for reform continuing to build on the Republican side of the aisle.

Over the past few days, a series of Republican governors have joined the Republican House and Senate leaders expressing support for passing real immigration legislation.  Among the comments from Republican governors include those from Virginia’s Bob McDonnell (R), who said “We have to realize: We’re not going to deport 12 million people…It’s just not going to happen”; from New Mexico’s Susana Martinez (R), who said of Latino voters, “We need to embrace them not just at election time…We have to make them part of the solution, and the way you do that is by listening to them”; and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal (R), who said of the Party’s immigration stance in the 2012 cycle, “Republican candidates this year did a lot of damage to the brand.”

And in addition to the outspoken array of Republican officeholders, former George W. Bush Commerce Secretary and Mitt Romney surrogate Carlos Gutierrez has announced the formation of a new Super PAC titled “Republicans for Immigration Reform.”  As the Associated Press describes and the name suggests, the PAC will “support Republican candidates who back comprehensive immigration reform, including legalizing the status of an estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. without authorization.”  Said Gutierrez of the Republican Party and immigration, “If we get this right, the 21st century is ours.  If we get it wrong, shame on us.”  Gutierrez indicated that he hopes to use his PAC to avoid a repeat of the 2012 election cycle, which Gutierrez says led to Latino voters being “scared of the Republican Party…I think it has to do with our incredibly ridiculous primary process where we force people to say outrageous things, they get nominated and they have to come back.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

It’s heartening to see Republicans of every elected office, region, and ideology embrace the necessity of workable and humane immigration reform – and to start putting their money where their mouths are.  That the timetable for immigration reform has sped up so dramatically is a testament to the depths of the Republican Party’s problems with Latino voters.  To the Republican Party’s credit, they recognize that a repaired relationship with Latino voters can only begin with the GOP sharing the credit with the Democrats for passing humane and workable immigration reform.

As the New York Times stated in its lead editorial in this Sunday’s paper:

The arguments for reform over expulsion have always been smarter, saner and better for the rule of law, the preservation of families and the economy.  Now that some of their opponents are softening their positions, Mr. Obama and Congress need to act.

Who Wants Immigration Reform With Citizenship for the 11 Million? Just About Everyone

11/14/12 at 3:16 pm

Momentum keeps building on behalf of immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

From the President to conservative leaders to the American people themselves, the stampede towards broad immigration reform that will put 11 million new Americans on the road to citizenship is staggering – and that’s just in the past 24 hours.

Among the key developments over just the past day include the following voices speaking out positively on behalf of real immigration reform:

  • President Obama – At a meeting with top progressive leaders yesterday, President Obama pledged to tackle immigration reform early in his second term, according to Huffington Post.  The President, “brought up immigration reform, unprompted, in his opening remarks — a stark difference from tense previous talks in which he’s been prodded by reform advocates to address the topic.  ‘I’ve been in a number of meetings with him on this topic, it’s been pretty rough, but this one, the passion, intensity, seriousness — I was pretty struck,’ the source said.  ‘If there’s one thing he was crystal clear he was going to get done in 2013 … it was immigration reform.  He was going to lean into it, he was sure Republicans were going to come to the table.  It was sort of what he’s said before, but with huge conviction.’”  The President is expected to reaffirm his commitment to immigration reform in his press conference today.
  • The American public – Latino and non-Latinos alike:  While Latino voters and others with a personal connection to the immigration debate are overwhelmingly in favor of immigration reform, the vast majority of all Americans are as well.  This comes through loud and clear in several new polls, as well as the 2012 network exit poll.  Looking forward, this means that immigration reform with a path to citizenship will be passionately supported by Latino voters AND supported by all Americans, who desire solutions to overcome the legislative stalemate of recent years.  Among the new poll findings include:
  • United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection: The poll found that 76% of respondents believe that our nation “should allow some or all of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants to remain in the United States if they meet certain conditions of residency and good behavior.” National Journal writes in their accompanying poll recap that support for legalization is growing: “When pollsters asked the question in December 2011, 67 percent said that the government should permit such immigrants to stay.  The percentage of those who want all illegal immigrants deported has shrunken from 25 percent to 17 percent over that same period.”  The poll also found, “White men without college diplomas took the hardest line on deportation, but even among this group, almost two-thirds supported some sort of process to let illegal immigrants stay, and just 34 percent opted for full deportation.”
  • ABC News/Washington Post:  As the ABC News article accompanying the poll release notes, “Fifty-seven percent of Americans in this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, with 39 percent opposed…In this survey, support for a path to citizenship peaks at 82 percent among Hispanics, 71 percent among Democrats and liberals alike and 69 percent among young adults, all key Obama groups.  Support’s at 68 percent among nonwhites overall, compared with 51 percent among non-Hispanic whites.”
  • Lake Research Partners/The Tarrance Group: A national Election Day poll of voters by the Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners and the Republican polling firm The Tarrance Group released yesterday found strong support for President Obama’s decision to stop deporting young immigrants who came to this country as children but are not legal residents.  A solid majority of voters support this policy (57%), including close to a majority (46%) who strongly support it, while only 26% are opposed.  While Democrats are the most likely to favor this policy (75%) a majority of Independents (60%) and a substantial number of Republicans (35%) also favor Obama’s decision.
  • Senator Orrin Hatch:  The longtime Republican Senator from Utah, who was an original sponsor of the DREAM Act before moving to the right on immigration in recent years, is again signaling openness to broad immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented.  When asked if he would be “willing to negotiate on a comprehensive bill that included a pathway to citizenship,” Senator Hatch told The Hill yesterday, “Everything ought to be on the table…There are a lot of very important legal considerations that have to be made, but I’ve always been empathetic towards resolving this problem one way or the other.”
  • Senator John McCain:  Similar to Senator Hatch, Senator McCain (R-AZ) seems to be re-embracing his past support for substantive immigration reform.  When asked by The Hill about his support for immigration reform with a path to citizenship, Senator McCain said, “There’s a sense of urgency in the Republican Party for obvious reasons, and I’m sure that everybody’s ready to deal.  But the specifics?  Too early…I think it’s very likely that we get it resolved, but there are going to be some tough negotiations.”  Additionally, Sen. McCain tweeted on Nov. 9th, “I agree with the calls for comprehensive immigration reform.”
  • Senator Rand Paul:  Arguably the leading elected representative of the Tea Party movement, Senator Paul (R-KY) told POLITICO he is working on an immigration plan, saying, “I want to show what conservatives would or can accept…If we assimilate those who are here, however they got here — don’t make it an easy path for citizenship.  There would be an eventual path, but we don’t make anybody tomorrow a citizen who came here illegally.  But if they’re willing to work, willing to pay taxes, I think we need to normalize those who are here.”
  • Evangelical leaders across political spectrum: As Talking Points Memo reports, “A large number of evangelical organizations, including 150 evangelical leaders, plan to play a major role in the push for immigration reform.  A coalition of evangelical organizations from across the political spectrum on Tuesday released letters to the White House and leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives, urging action on a comprehensive immigration reform bill within the first 92 days of the second Obama administration.  In the letters, members of a diverse group of evangelical organizations called the Evangelical Immigration Table asked to meet with President Obama and Congressional leaders in the first 92 days to discuss reform. The group called for a bipartisan bill that emphasizes the dignity of every person, guarantees secure national borders and ‘establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.’”  Leith Anderson, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals said, “This is the 21st century, and our immigration laws are from the 20th century.   It’s time to move on.”
  • The Wall Street Journal editorial page:  The leading conservative editorial page in the nationcontinued its crusade on behalf of sensible immigration reform with a new editorial that takes: “The GOP’s Presidential election defeat is opening up a debate in the party, with more than a few voices saying they are willing to rethink their views on immigration.  This is good news, which means it’s also a good moment to address some of the frequent claims from the anti-immigration right that simply aren’t true, especially about Hispanics.  One myth is that Latino voters simply aren’t worth pursuing because they’re automatic Democrats.  Yet Ronald Reagan was so eager to welcome Latinos to the GOP that he described them as “Republicans who don’t know it yet.”…Equally specious is the argument that Latino immigrants come here, often illegally, to “steal” jobs or to go on the dole. If illegal aliens are displacing natives in the labor force, why was there more immigration and less unemployment under President Bush?  And if foreign nationals are primarily attracted to our welfare state, how to explain the fact that low-income immigrants are less likely to be receiving public benefits than low-income natives?…The larger issue is about values and economics.  With rare historical exceptions like anti-Chinese nativism of the late 1800s, belief in the immigrant story of aspiration and the U.S. as a land of opportunity have been core American values.  A party that rejects those beliefs distances itself from American exceptionalism, if we can borrow a word popular in conservative circles.”

Will the GOP Go the Way of the Whig Party?

11/13/12 at 3:07 pm

A week out from the 2012 elections, it’s clear that Latino voters’ decisive role in the electorate has boosted the prospects and accelerated the timetable for passing immigration reform legislation.  Here are two key reasons why:

1.  Without a significantly improved performance among Latino voters, the Republican Party’s future as a nationally competitive political party is threatened.

2.  While the Latino electorate’s disconnect from the current Republican Party runs deeper than immigration alone, it will be impossible for the GOP to get a hearing on its other issues unless and until they work to pass immigration reform.

While the importance of the Latino electorate seems obvious, here’s a reminder of how quickly things have declined for Republicans.  Just eight years ago George W. Bush received at least 40% of the Latino vote (some say 44%), enabling him to win the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico.  When he first ran for office Bush famously said that “family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande.”  He consistently and sincerely reached out to Hispanic voters.  And in 2004 he defied the anti-immigrant wing of the party by making a highly-publicized White House speech in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

Just eight years later, Mitt Romney received just 23% Latino support of a much larger Latino electorate.  Latino Decisions analysis shows that with just 35% support from Latinos – or three points fewer than his campaign’s stated goal of 38% Latino support – Romney would have won the popular vote outright (See slide six, titled “Watershed Moment.”)

To understand the role immigration plays as a threshold issue for many Latinos, consider that the 2012 ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions election eve poll of Latino voters found that nearly one-in-three Latino voters would be “more likely to vote Republican” if the GOP “took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”  Of note, one-in-five Latinos who voted for President Obama in 2012 (19.8%) said that they would be open to voting for Republicans if the Party came to the table on immigration.  Combining this subset of Obama voters with the 23% of Latinos who voted for Mitt Romney, a pro-immigration reform Republican Party would be poised to again achieve the 40% threshold of Latino support that George W. Bush received in 2004 and many analysts say the GOP will need going forward to remain a nationally competitive party.  The poll also underscored the personal lens through which most Latino voters view the immigration debate, finding that 60% of Latino voters nationwide “know somebody who is an undocumented immigrant.”

According to Frank Sharry:

With immigration reform now a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if,’  Republicans have a choice.  They can help enact immigration reform now and get some of the credit from Latino voters, or they can continue to block reform and watch the Party’s problems with Latino voters become more acute.  The problem is that continued obstructionism on immigration would threaten the Republican Party’s future, especially when reliably red states like Arizona and Texas would go the way of California.

Prominent Republican Senators, newly elected and out of office alike, are making similar points.

Newly elected Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) told Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker:

In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat…If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House.  New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat.  If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple.  We won’t be talking about Ohio, we won’t be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won’t matter.  If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to two-seventy electoral votes.  The Republican Party would cease to exist.  We would become like the Whig Party.  Our kids and grandkids would study how this used to be a national political party. ‘They had Conventions, they nominated Presidential candidates. They don’t exist anymore.’

Former Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) similarly reads the demographic writing on the wall regarding GOP problems with Latinos due to immigration, noting that the 2012 elections were:

…a clarion call that we have to [respond to].  Soon we are going to have to start worrying about Texas and Arizona.  Unless we step up, we are going to be the minority party.


Obama’s Re-election Sets Record Support for Latino Voters

11/13/12 at 11:27 am

In his 1996 re-election President Bill Clinton attained 72 percent of the Latino vote, the highest level of Latino support of any presidential candidate—before this year. In 2012, President Obama set a new record, winning his second term in office with the support of 75 percent the Latino electorate. Obama won by deploying three key Latino “firewalls”—that is, a Democratic vote advantage in areas that without the Latino vote could see Republican come out on top—in the West, in new Latino destinations in the South and Midwest, and in Florida—and effectively preventing the GOP from attracting Latinos in critical numbers.

The electoral support that the president received, according to the impreMedia/Latino Decisions election eve poll, surpassed what polls even just days before the election indicated. The last weekly tracking poll by impreMedia/Latino Decisions had shown Latino support for the president tying Clinton’s 72 percent.

Latino support for President Obama had grown by a full ten percentage points in the last two months of the general campaign. The first impreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking poll showed Latinos supporting the president at levels similar to those of 2008, in the mid to high sixty percent range. But, in the home stretch, the momentum among Latinos culminated in three-quarters of the electorate opting for another four years.

What is more striking than the overall level of support is the sky-high levels of support the president received in the Western swing states. In Nevada close to eight out of every ten Latinos voted for the president. In Colorado 87 percent of Latinos did the same. Toward the end of the campaign New Mexico was not considered a swing state, but it is indeed a part of the Western Latino firewall, with 77 percent of the Latino vote going to Obama. And while Arizona was solidly in the Romney column, the rapidly growing Latino electorate overwhelmingly voted for the president, with 79 of the vote.

Latinos also played a key role in the swing states of Virginia and Ohio, with 66 percent and 82 percent respectively of the Latino electorate voting for the president. While the Latino electorate in both of these states is still in the single digits, 5 percent in Virginia and 3 percent in Ohio Latinos helped tilt these über-tight races for the president. Moreover, the Latino electorate in what we think of as nontraditional destinations—such as the South and the Midwest—are actually the fastest growing in the country. A decade ago the Latino population in these areas was non-existent. Today it is growing at a rapid clip and will see the expansion of the Latino electorate into the double digits within ten to fifteen years.

The president did not need Florida to round into his 270 electoral votes. But just in case, his campaign secured a solid firewall in the central part of the state with the Puerto Rican electorate. Until recently, Cuban-Americans in the Miami-Dade area that overwhelmingly identify as Republicans have dominated the Latino electorate in Florida. Not coincidentally, close to two-thirds of Cuban-Americans in Florida voted for Mitt Romney.

But the last several years have seen a steady growth of Puerto Ricans in the I-4 corridor, stretching from Tampa to Orlando. Unlike their Cuban counterparts, Puerto Ricans tend to identify as Democrats. And in this week’s election the Obama campaign’s expectations were met with 72 percent of the Puerto Rican electorate voting for the president.

In the last two decades the Latino population has doubled. And more significantly, it has become more geographically diverse. Long gone are the days of equating the Latino electorate with only Los Angeles, Miami or Houston. To talk about Latinos today, we need to talk about Macon, Georgia, and Boise, Idaho. The political implication of this growth and geographic reach is the establishment of electoral firewalls. In this past election we saw the development and deployment of three such firewalls—the first in the Western states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico; the second in the new Latino destinations of Ohio and Virginia, and the third in Central Florida. But the durability of these firewalls will depend on whether the GOP continues to walk away from the Latino electorate of whether they will change their tune and start building their own Latino lines of defense.


GOP Voices Continue to Advocate for Immigration Reform

11/12/12 at 4:37 pm

From John Boehner to Sean Hannity, from Eric Cantor to Charles Krauthammer, Republicans of all stripes have spent the last week coming to terms with how they must moderate their positions on immigration in order to win the Latino vote—or eventually face irrelevance as a party.  Here are even more quotes from over the weekend from Republicans encouraging their fellow GOPers to shape up on immigration:

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) talked to the Arizona Republic about how the Latino vote will only grow: “It’s obvious that we’ll have to review the whole issue of the Hispanic voter and see what steps we need to take to regain that vote.  It’s very important because that demographic is growing here in Arizona and across the country. In some of the states like Colorado and Nevada, especially those, and others the Hispanic vote was pivotal. We’ll have to review the issue of immigration reform.”

Carlos Gutierrez, an advisor to Mitt Romney on Latino outreach, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that anti-immigrant Republicans “scared the heck out of” the Latino voters that Romney’s campaign wanted to court: “The Hispanics I know were scared of the Republican party.  I think it has to do with our incredibly ridiculous primary process where we force people to say outrageous things, they get nominated, and they have to come back.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told “Face the Nation” that GOP positions on immigration have “built a wall between the Republican Party and the Hispanic community.”  He continued, “This is an odd formula for a party to adopt, the fastest growing demographic in the country, and we’re losing votes every election. It’s one thing to shoot yourself in the foot, just don’t reload the gun. I intend not to reload this gun when it comes to Hispanics. I intend to tear this wall down and pass an immigration reform bill that’s an American solution to an American problem.”

Former Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla (TX), talked to NPR about the impact of the Latino vote in last week’s election:  ”I can’t imagine that if you’re a Republican and have any level of sanity left, that you did not feel this earthquake and want to do something about it before your whole political future craters.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told CBS’ “This Morning” that the GOP needs to understand that “the changing demographics in the country really necessitate an even bigger tent for the Republican Party…clearly we are losing important segments of that electorate and what we have to do is to appeal to those people not as identity groups but understanding that if you can get the identity issue out of the way, then you can appeal on the broader issues that all Americans share a concern for.”

Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said on the “Today” show that immigration reform is just good policy: “We not only need Ph.Ds in science and technology, we need skilled workers and we need unskilled workers. And we need to have an immigration policy that is good economic policy, and then — and then the politics will take care of itself.”

Even Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) said on “12 News Sunday Square” in Arizona that the Republicans’ push for immigration reform would be “fine and dandy” with her—before her spokesman Matt Benson later clarified that Brewer still believes securing the border should come before reform.


From Boehner & Cantor to Hannity & Krauthammer, Influential Conservatives Talk Need for Immigration Reform

11/09/12 at 2:49 pm

Leading Republican and conservative voices are coming to terms with the political imperative that the Party must evolve on immigration reform.

According to Frank Sharry:

The tectonic plates are shifting on immigration.  The fact that leading movement conservative voices are joining Republican leaders in calling for immigration reform that includes relief for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America is a major development that will open up space for the GOP to do the right thing and help pass sensible reform legislation.

Among the key developments on the subject over the past 24 hours include the following comments from leading Republicans and conservatives:

  • Sean Hannity: The influential conservative Fox News television and radio host said on his radio show Thursday that he has “evolved” on the issue and now supports a “pathway to citizenship.”  Hannity said, our nation needs to “get rid of the immigration issue altogether.”
  • Speaker of the House John Boehner: The Speaker said to ABC News regarding immigration reform, “This issue has been around far too long…A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself and others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office: An unnamed Cantor aide told the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas yesterday that “We understand that we can’t keep kicking this can down the road…We’re going to address the 11 million people,” referring to the components of a future immigration reform bill.
  • Charles Krauthammer: The conservative columnist and pundit writes today, “In securing the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney made the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry.  Romney could never successfully tack back.  For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural.  It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty.  Yes, amnesty.”

The above voices are joining a host of other Republican and conservatives who have been making a similar case – that the Republican Party must get right on immigration reform in order to compete for Latino voters.  Among those making such a case in the past few days include the Wall Street Journal editorial page, conservative activist Grover Norquist, leading conservative religious voices, key strategists and officials from the George W. Bush White House, and influential business leaders, like Rupert Murdoch.

Said Sharry:

In addition to the fiscal cliff, many leading conservatives are finally starting to worry about the GOP’s demographic cliff.  They should take heart in the fact that the vast majority of all Americans, not just Latino and Asian-Americans, want Washington to pass sensible immigration reform, which includes a path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.

Consider the response from 2012 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.  Even among Republican activists – such as Iowa caucus-goers – immigration policy positions are more pragmatic than conventional wisdom might suggest.

Concluded Sharry:

The political class and conservative thought-leaders seem to finally be catching up to where the American people are on this issue.  It’s about time.

Battleground State Exit Polling: How Latino Voters Influenced the 2012 Elections

11/09/12 at 2:27 pm

The 2012 elections demonstrate that, as the rest of the country takes note of the growing impact of Latino and new citizen voters, they should look to swing states like Arizona, Florida, Colorado, and New Mexico to see what that change could mean. Newly-released election-eve polling from impreMedia and Latino Decisions – which surveyed Latino voters nationally and in eleven states – shows these voters’ growing influence, and their attention to the candidates’ positions on immigration and other top Latino issues. The following state-by-state polling looks at Latino vote turnout in these key states, what percentage of them broke for which candidate, who they supported in important Senate races, what issues they believe to be important, how they feel about President Obama’s policies, and much more.  Below are links to each of the state results, as well as tables summarizing the data:

State-by-State Latino votePercentage Voting for Obama vs. Romney

Percentage Obama Percentage Romney
New Mexico 77 21
Nevada 80 17
Colorado 87 10
Florida 58 40
Arizona 79 20
Texas 70 29
Virginia 66 31
Ohio 82 17

Percentage of Latino Vote Voting for Senate Democrat vs. Senate Republican

Percentage Democrat Percentage Republican
New Mexico (Democrat Martin Heinrich vs. Republican Heather Wilson) 79 20
Nevada (Democrat Shelly Berkley vs. Republican Dean Heller) 79 20
Colorado (n/a)
Florida (Democrat Bill Nelson vs. Republican Connie Mack) 59 40
Arizona (Democrat Richard Carmona vs. Republican Jeff Flake) 83 17
Texas (Democrat Paul Sadler vs. Republican Ted Cruz) 65 35
Virginia (Democrat Tim Kaine vs. Republican George Allen) 70 29
Ohio (Democrat Sherrod Brown vs. Republican Josh Mandel) 80 20

Issues Cited as Top Priorities for State Latino Voters

Economy/Jobs Immigration/ DREAM Act Health Care Education
New Mexico 55 29 16 10
Nevada 54 40 8 19
Colorado 50 34 16 17
Florida 57 35 13 12
Arizona 47 48 12 15
Texas 54 40 8 19
Virginia 55 42 10 15
Ohio 54 31 13 12

Percentage of State Latino Voters Who Know Someone Undocumented, Percentage of State Latino Voters Who Would Be More Likely to Vote Republican if GOP Better Supported Immigration Reform

  Percentage Know Someone Undocumented Percentage More Likely to Vote Republican
New Mexico 53 21
Nevada 67 34
Colorado 63 24
Florida 46 39
Arizona 65 38
Texas 58 36
Virginia 57 28
Ohio 40 26

  How does Obama Truly Feel About Latino Community?

  Truly Cares Didn’t Care Too Much Hostile
New Mexico 69 18 3
Nevada 68 18 6
Colorado 80 14 2
Florida 56 32 5
Arizona 69 22 3
Texas 64 25 2
Virginia 53 31 3
Ohio 71 21 2

  Does President Obama’s deferred action policy make you more or less enthusiastic about voting for Obama?

  More Less
New Mexico 50 8
Nevada 61 5
Colorado 62 4
Florida 45 10
Arizona 59 9
Texas 59 5
Virginia 48 11
Ohio 47 8

  How Does Romney Truly Feel About Latino Community?

  Truly Cares Didn’t Care Too Much Hostile
New Mexico 14 44 15
Nevada 12 60 19
Colorado 9 59 27
Florida 23 49 14
Arizona 14 58 18
Texas 17 56 15
Virginia 18 54 13
Ohio 13 57 20

  Does Mitt Romney’s self-deportation policy make you more or less enthusiastic about voting for Romney?

  More Less
New Mexico 9 52
Nevada 5 61
Colorado 5 68
Florida 12 51
Arizona 7 56
Texas 7 55
Virginia 8 55
Ohio 3 62

And the 2012 Winner Is…Immigration Reform

11/08/12 at 2:28 pm

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.”

New Poll: Latino Voters Make Big Impression in 2012 Election Results

11/07/12 at 3:36 pm

The 2012 elections demonstrate that Latino and new citizen voters are changing politics.  In 2012, Latino voters turned out like never before, comprising an  estimated 10% of the overall electorate.  This heavy Latino turnout, combined with the historic 75%-23% margin in favor of President Obama over Mitt Romney, was one of the keys to President Obama’s re-election and kept the Senate in Democratic hands yet again.  Latino voters’ impact was felt not only in traditionally Latino-heavy states (such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas) but also in other battleground states with relatively newer and smaller Latino populations (such as Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia).

On a webinar today, pollsters, national Latino leaders and immigration experts discussed the 2012 election results and lifted up new election-eve polling from ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions, which showed just how influential Latino voters and the immigration issue were in determining the final results.  In addition to nationwide poll numbers, data on Latino voters’ preferences and voting decisions are also available from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia.  See the topline data here, crosstabs here, and graphs and charts here.

Said Gary Segura, Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies at Stanford University and Principal at Latino Decisions, “The most historic thing in this election is that for the first time in history, the share of the national popular vote margin is smaller than the Latino vote margin.  That means that if Latinos had evenly divided their vote between both Candidates, the outcomes would be reversed.”

Among the poll’s findings:

Latinos Influence the Outcomes of National and State Races

  • In the presidential race, 75% of Latinos voted for President Obama, while 23% voted for Mitt Romney.
  • In U.S. Senate races, 72% of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate, while 27% voted for the Republican.
  • In U.S. House races, 77% of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 23% voted for the Republican.

Latino Voters Have A Lot at Stake in 2012

  • 53% of Latinos said that fixing the economy and creating more jobs was the most important issue facing the Latino community that Congress and the President should address.  This was followed by 35% who said the same about immigration reform and the DREAM Act, 20% who said education reform, and 14% who said health care.  In two states (Arizona and North Carolina), immigration was either tied or above the economy.
  • When asked about the best approach to reduce the 1.4 trillion dollar deficit, 12% said only spending cuts, 35% said raising taxes on the wealthy and 42% said a combination of both.
  • On the Affordable Care Act, 61% said it should be left to stand as law and 25% said it should be repealed.  When further pressed on health care, and asked “do you think the federal government should play a role to ensure that all people have access to insurance, or do you think it is better for people to be responsible for getting their own health insurance,” 66% said that the “government should ensure,” 25% said “people should get their own,” 2% said “none of these,” and 3% said “something else.”

Candidates’ Positions on Latino Issues Weigh Heavily on the Minds of Latino Voters

  • 66% of Latinos said that Obama “truly cares” about the Latino community, 23% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 3% said he “was being hostile.”  Meanwhile,  14% of respondents said that Romney “truly cares” about the Latino community, 56% said he “didn’t care too much,” and 18% said he “was being hostile.”
  • After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 58% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 6% said that they were “less enthusiastic.”  Meanwhile, after hearing about Mitt Romney’s campaign platform of “self-deportation” and learning that he would not revoke deferred action for DREAMers whose applications are approved under Obama but would stop approving new applications once he is elected, 7% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 57% of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic.”
  • If the Republican Party “took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and Republicans worked to ensure it would pass,” 31% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote Republican, 11% said they would be less likely and 48% said it would have no effect on their vote.  Importantly, this includes nearly 20% of Latinos who voted for Obama this year.

The Two Parties are Starting to Realize that Latino Voters Matter, and the Issues Matter to Latinos

  • 31% said that they had been contacted by someone from a campaign, political party or community organization asking from them to vote or register to vote.  Of those, 59% said they were contacted by Democrats, 39% said Republicans, and 33% said community organizations from both parties.
  • 36% of respondents said that they voted in 2012 because they wanted to support and represent the Latino community, 39% they voted to support the Democratic candidate and 15% said they voted to support Republican.
  • 57% of Latinos said that they think of themselves as Democrats, 14% as Republicans, 20% as Independents, 4% said “other party,” and 5% said “don’t know.”

For the full poll national and battleground state poll results, click here.

Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer at the Service Employees International Union, has been leading efforts in Latino voter mobilization battleground states around the country.  On today’s call, he remarked: “The Latino giant is wide awake and cranky, and Mitt Romney and the GOP paid the price. Yesterday, Latinos helped elect a president. We are now a part of history and of the political future of this country. The election sends a signal that if Republicans want to be a viable political party in the future, they need to get right with Latinos. They have to support comprehensive immigration reform. If immigration reform is not done in 2013, politicians who stand in the way will suffer the consequences in the 2014 election.”

“NALEO Educational Fund projected that 12.2 million Latinos would cast ballots in this election, a historic record,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO Educational Fund. “Latino voters played a key role in shaping the nation’s political landscape last night, demonstrating for the fourth presidential election in a row that the race for the White House was heavily decided by the Latino electorate.”

According to Clarissa Martinez, Director, Civic Engagement and Immigration at the National Council of La Raza, “Latino voters confirmed unequivocally that the road to the White House goes through Hispanic neighborhoods.  Our community cares deeply about restoring the American Dream for all, expanding economic opportunity, and resolving immigration once and for all.  The real work on common sense solutions begins now, and Latinos will be a powerful ally in moving the nation forward together.”

“From negative campaigning to voter-suppression laws, this election cycle has been characterized by extreme pessimism and anti-democratic actions, yet Latino voters have responded with great optimism about the future of our country,” said Ben Monterroso, National Executive Director for Mi Familia Vota Education Fund. “This is a sign that if invited and if informed, Latinos will participate in our democratic process, making them a core-voting bloc of the American electorate. The 2012 election is a story of the Latino arrival; an optimistic group of voters who are playing a key role in rebuilding this country and trusting government to play a role.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice Education Fund, said, “The GOP’s lurch to the right on immigration destroyed their chances of re-taking the White House and the Senate. Obama leaned into the issue by protecting DREAMers, a move that mobilized Latino voters and did not hurt him with swing voters. As a result, the 2012 election is a game-changer. It produced a mandate for immigration reform.”       

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:


Pundits and Conservatives Agree: Republicans MUST Fix Latino Vote Problem

11/07/12 at 3:27 pm

Both mainstream political pundits and leading conservative voices are recognizing that the Republican Party’s anti-immigrant brand image and poor standing among Latino voters may just have cost them the presidency in 2012.  What’s more, the demographic writing is on the wall: unless the Republican Party changes its stripes on immigration, the GOP’s “Latino problem” will only get worse.

Pundits:

  • Yesterday, before the results were called, David Gergen remarked on CNN “I am quite optimistic whoever wins we will get immigration reform.  The Democrats want it and the Republicans now need it.”
  • Chuck Todd on NBC: “The story of this election is demographics. The Republican party have not kept up with the changing face of America…The Republican party has serious soul-searching to do.”  Todd also said on today’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, “There are some things where it’s the Party’s fault, not Romney’s fault, but in this case, [Romney] said, ‘no, no, no, I’m going to make my conservative stand on immigration.”
  • Tom Brokaw on MSNBC said, “a lot of damage was done in the Republican primaries…every one of those debates got meaner and got smaller…And you saw what Gov. Romney went through at that time, especially when Gov. Perry got in [the race].”
  • Joe Scarborough on MSNBC questioned Romney’s decision to tack right in the GOP primaries on immigration, saying [Romney] “could have won the primary without going there…if he had gotten same percentage as John McCain of Hispanic votes, he’d be President-elect.”
  • Chris Matthews on MSNBC, said “Romney was wrong to say self-deport.  This isn’t some mistake.  It’s a policy decision that he made in the beginning of the campaign.  He was going to get to the far right and it was the one thing he couldn’t pivot back on….looks to me like [Hispanic community] they saw this as a real turn in the road against them.”
  • Jonathan Martin of POLITICO writes, “President Barack Obama’s thrashing of Mitt Romney exposed glaring structural weaknesses in the GOP that will shut the Republicans out of the White House until they find a way to appeal to a rapidly changing America.”
  • Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic tweeted, “one emerging lesson for GOP:  Be nice to immigrants. They’re staying here and becoming Americans who vote. #immigration

Conservatives:

  • Matthew Dowd, former George W. Bush strategist, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the GOP has become a “’Mad Men’ party in a ‘Modern Family’ America.”
  • Fred Barnes, writing in The Weekly Standard today: “…there is also a hole in the Republican electorate.  There aren’t enough Hispanics.  As long as two-thirds of the growing Hispanic voting bloc lines up with Democrats, it will be increasingly difficult (though hardly impossible) for Republicans to win national elections.  When George W. Bush won a narrow reelection in 2004, he got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote.  If Romney had managed that, he would have come closer to winning.  He might even have won.”
  • Brit Hume of Fox News said on air, “the Republican party’s going to have to ask itself if the hardline position that Mitt Romney assuredly took during the primary season to try to win this election — he took a hardline position on immigration — is in the long run a winning position for them.  Karl Rove and George H.W. Bush never thought so, and others don’t think so, as well. And so when they’re saying ‘Well, Mitt Romney wasn’t conservative enough’ as some certainly will say, you have to point to that issue as one that might be a short-term and a long-term loser for them, politically.”
  • George Will, conservative columnist and ABC News contributor said, [Romney] “came out against the DREAM Act, promising to veto it, and a few months after that he was using the language of ‘self-deportation,’ that is making life difficult enough for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country that they would deport themselves…It’s awfully hard to unring that bell.”
  • Ana Navarro, Republican strategist, said on CNN: “If we don’t do better with Hispanics we’re going to be out of the White House forever.”  Navarro also tweeted, “Mitt Romney self-deported himself from the White House.”
  • Ari Fleischer, former George W. Bush aide, said on CNN: “The big issue Republicans are going to have to wrestle with is the Hispanic issue…with immigration, the Republicans are going to have to figure out a different way forward.”
  • Brian KilmeadeFox News host, said “The problem is for Republicans, less and less white voters every year…we have got to talk about what the next four years will look like.  And i think immigration reform will be front and center.”
  • Mike Huckabee, former GOP presidential contender, said on Fox News, “I think Republicans have done a pathetic job of reaching out to people of color…something we have got to work on.”
  • John Weaver, Republican strategist, tweeted on Election Night: “I said this then. I said this in the spring. In the summer. Biggest mistake was MR going hard right on immigration. Paying price.”
  • The Wall Street Journal editorial page writes, “Perhaps most damaging, Mr. Romney failed to appeal more creatively to minority voters, especially Hispanics. His single worst decision may have been to challenge Texas Governor Rick Perry in the primaries by running to his right on immigration. Mr. Romney didn’t need to do this given that Mr. Perry was clearly unprepared for a national campaign, and given the weakness of the other GOP candidates. (Tim Pawlenty had dropped out.)  Mr. Romney missed later chances to move to the middle on immigration reform, especially Senator Marco Rubio’s compromise on the Dream Act for young immigrants brought here by their parents. This created the opening for Mr. Obama to implement the core of the Dream Act by executive order, however illegally, and boost his image with Hispanic voters.  The exit polls show that Mr. Romney did even worse among Hispanics than John McCain in 2008, and we may learn in coming days that this was the margin in some swing states. The GOP needs to leave its anti-immigration absolutists behind.”

How Latino Voters Annihilated Romney and the Republicans

11/07/12 at 12:56 am

It is hard to overstate the influence of Latino voters in shaping the results of the 2012 elections.  They played a critical role in re-electing President Obama and in saving the Democratic majority in the Senate, again.  And immigration clearly was one if the main issues that produced unprecedented Latino turnout levels and historic levels of support for Democratic candidates.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Romney’s lurch to the right on immigration destroyed his chances of winning the White House.  Meanwhile, President Obama leaned into the issue by protecting DREAMers, a move that mobilized Latino voters without turning off swing voters.  The result was that Obama beat Romney by a whopping 52% margin among Latinos – thelargest spread in recent history.  The implication is that, in the next Congress, immigration reform will be a priority – for both parties.  As David Gergen remarked on CNN on Election Day: ‘The Democrats want it and the Republicans now need it.’”

Regarding turnout, NALEO, which has an excellent track record of projecting Latino turnout, predicted an unprecedented 12.2 million Latino voters for 2012, which would be an increase of 26% from 2008.  While the specific turnout data will only become available in the coming weeks and months, what is clear today via the Election Eve poll conducted by impreMedia/Latino Decisions nationwide and in 11 key 2012 battleground states is that Latino voters not only played a major role in returning President Barack Obama to the White House, but also were critical in helping to keep the Senate in Democratic hands.  In all cases, immigration reform and the dramatic distinction between the two parties on the issue was a major driver of Latino voter political choices.

Among the key takeaways from the 2012 elections and the Election Eve poll:

  • President Obama Crushed Mitt Romney Among Latino Voters Nationwide and in Each of the 11 Battleground States Polled: Obama won Latino voters’ support over Mitt Romney by historic margins in 2012 – a whopping 75%-23% margin nationwide, including: in Colorado, Obama won Latino voters by a massive 87%-10% margin; in New Mexico, by a 77%-21% margin; in Nevada, by an 80%-17% margin; in Ohio, by an 82%-17% margin; and in Virginia, by a 66%-31% margin.  EvenFlorida’s traditionally more conservative Latino voters supported Obama over Romney by a 58%-40% margin.
  • Immigration is a Personal and Defining Issue for Latino Voters:  The poll found that 60% of Latino voters nationwide “know somebody who is an undocumented immigrant.”  While ranking second on the “most important issue” question, immigration ranked first in several states currently experimenting with draconian anti-immigrant approaches, such as Arizona (plurality of 48% said immigration) andNorth Carolina (50% said immigration).  The foreign-born subset of Latino voters – a group with direct personal experience with immigration policy – preferred Obama over Romney by an 80%-18% margin, was more likely to rank immigration as the number one issue our leaders should address (39%), and was more likely to know an undocumented immigrant (66%).
  • The Republican Party as a Whole – not Just Romney – Has a Major Problem with Latino Voters:  Latino voters’ support for Democratic congressional candidates over GOP candidates – 77%-23% — was consistent or may have even slightly over-performed President Obama’s Latino margin over Mitt Romney (75%-23%).  And just like in 2010, Latino voters’ overwhelming support for the Democratic Senate candidates helped keep the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands.  In Arizona, Democrats kept Richard Carmona competitive with Jeff Flake by supporting Carmona 83%-17%.  InCalifornia, Dianne Feinstein coasted to re-election, winning Latinos 79%-20%.  In Florida, Bill Nelson won re-election in large part due to 59%-40% support among Florida Latinos.  In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren’s victory was made possible in part by overwhelming support from Latinos (86%-14%).  In Nevada, Latino voters supported Shelley Berkley by a 79%-20% margin.  In Ohio, Latino voters supported Sherrod Brown’s re-election by a 80%-20% margin.  In Virginia, Latino voters provided the margin for Tim Kaine’s close election by supporting him at a 70%-29% clip.  And for Republican strategists who think Latino competitiveness can be achieved solely by recruiting more Latino Republican candidates, the poll found that winning Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz (R) only received support from 35% of Texas Latino voters – issues such as immigration matter more to Latino voters than ethnicity.
  • President Obama’s DREAMer Announcement Boosted Latino Voter Enthusiasm:  President Obama’s June 2012 announcement of the DREAMer deferred action program made 58% of Latino voters nationwide “more enthusiastic” about President Obama, while 32% of nationwide respondents said it had “no effect” on their enthusiasm for the President (only 6% said “less enthusiastic”).  This enthusiasm was particularly high in some of the key battleground states that tipped President Obama’s way in large part because of overwhelming support from Latinos – the announcement made 62% of Colorado Latinos and 61% of Nevada Latinos “more enthusiastic” about President Obama.
  • Mitt Romney’s Hardline Immigration Stances Hurt Him Among Latino Voters: Romney’s support for mandatory E-Verify, “self-deportation,” and ending the DREAMer deferred action program made 57% of Latino voters nationwide “less enthusiastic” about supporting Romney, while only 7% of Latinos said it made them “more enthusiastic” about Romney’s candidacy (27% said it “had no effect” on their level of support).  Of note, “less enthusiastic” responses were particularly high in Colorado (68%), California (62%), Ohio (62%), and Nevada (61%) – four states that voted against Romney, in part due to overwhelming opposition from Latino voters.  As we’ve noted, Romney’s run to the hardline right on immigration during the GOP primaries was unnecessary, as Republican primary and caucus-goers are actually more pragmatic than hardline on immigration.
  • The Republican Party Can Ony Reach its 40% of Latino Voters Goal By Evolving on Immigration: The poll found that nearly one-in-three Latino voters would be “more likely to vote Republican” if the GOP “took a leadership role in supporting comprehensive immigration reform, with an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”  Of note, one-in-five Latinos who voted for President Obama in 2012 (19.8%) said that they would be open to voting for Republicans if the Party came to the table on immigration.  Combining this subset of Obama voters with the 23% of Latinos who voted for Mitt Romney, a pro-immigration reform Republican Party would be in the mix to achieve the 40% threshold of Latino support that George W. Bush received in 2004 and many analysts say the GOP will need going forward to remain a nationally competitive party, especially as demographic trends accelerate for the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Methodology:

Full Results:


How the Immigration Debate Changed the Course of the 2012 Election

11/05/12 at 3:30 pm

The Wall Street Journal‘s front-page headline on November 1st read “Election May Hinge on Latino Turnout.” If true, Mitt Romney should start working on his concession speech.

With respect to Latino voters, the two key factors to consider are margin and mobilization. Regarding margin, the most recent impreMedia/Latino Decisions tracking poll shows that Obama is crushing Romney by 73 percent to 21 percent. Romney’s stated campaign goal was to win 38 percent — up from McCain’s 31 percent and down from Bush’s 40 percent. Not gonna happen.

But what about mobilization? Many have predicted low Latino turnout. They argue that Latino voters are so disappointed with the sluggish economy and the failure of President Obama to keep his promise to make immigration reform a first-term priority many will simply stay home.

Not so fast. The latest poll shows that Latinos are more enthusiastic and more likely to vote than ever: 87 percent of Latino voters say they are almost certain they will vote on November 6th (according to Census statistics, 84 percent of Latino registered voters cast a ballot in 2008); 45 percent of Latino voters say they are more enthusiastic about voting in 2012 compared to 2008 — up from 37 percent ten weeks ago in theinitial tracking poll. And add this fact into the mix: NALEO, the nation’s foremost authority on the Hispanic vote, predicts that 12.2 million Latinos will cast ballots in 2012 — an increase of 26 percent from 2008.

If these predictions come true, then Latinos will vote in record numbers and by an unprecedented 3-1 margin for Obama. This dynamic has already turned New Mexico solid blue and could be huge in Nevada, Colorado, Florida and even Virginia. Here’s my prediction: the day after the election, many a pundit will be chewing on the fact that Latinos played a decisive role in the outcome of the Presidential race.

The biggest single factor in driving such margins and mobilization? The dueling immigration stances of the two candidates. After a disappointing first term, in June of this year the President took bold executive action on behalf of young DREAMers, reigniting Latino voter support in the process. Meanwhile, the video clips of Romney pledging to veto the DREAM Act and promoting “self-deportation” should be permanent display at the Museum of Campaign Infamy (next to the clip of Gerry Ford claiming Eastern Europe was not subject to Soviet domination, the photograph of Mike Dukakis in the tank and the shot of George H.W. Bush checking his watch during a debate).

What’s truly remarkable is that none of this was predictable last year.

In 2011, Obama was in serious trouble with Hispanic voters. Instead of making immigration reform a priority as promised, his Administration was deporting record numbers of immigrants — including many of the same people the President had promised to put on a path to legal status. As a result, the President was facing fierce criticism from Spanish language media and from immigrant advocates. In June 2011, at the annual NCLR conference, President Obama made a speech in which he said he could not, without Congressional approval, change immigration policy unilaterally. In response, the crowd erupted in a chant of “Yes, you can! Yes, you can!” A few days later, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and other community leaders staged a sit-down strike and were arrested in front of White House. They sat in front of a banner that read: “One Million Deported Under President Obama.”

The growing tide of anger and disappointment was reflected in the polls. On September 7, 2011, Gallup reported that Obama’s monthly approval rating had sunk to a “new low” — 48 percent — with Hispanics, down from 60 percent just nine months earlier, and way down from the 67 percent who had voted for him in 2008.

Meanwhile, in Boston, Romney campaign strategists were evaluating their 2008 defeat and plotting for 2012. They decided to go softer on immigration and to de-emphasize other culturally-charged issues. Their hard line on immigration in 2008, designed to get to McCain’s right, failed miserably. And this time around, his team feared such a stance would distract from the campaign’s drive to position Romney as a non-ideological businessman who could fix the economy.

Evidently, Romney himself didn’t get the memo. Spooked by Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, he started talking like a Minuteman. In short order, he vowed to veto the DREAM Act, he bear-hugged the author of Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, Kris Kobach and he endorsed “self-deportation,” the radical strategy of the hard-right anti-immigrant movement which aims to purge Latino immigrants from the country by making their lives so miserable they’re compelled to leave America. And to add insult to injury, he kept referring to undocumented immigrants as “illegals” -= which to Latino voters is a dehumanizing term akin to the word “colored.”

Still, could Romney have won the GOP nomination if he hadn’t become a born-again nativist? Most likely. Immigration was not a top tier issue for Republicans primary voters, with only 3 percent of Iowa GOP caucus-goers or Florida GOP primary voters listing “illegal immigration” as their top voting issue. And despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, Republican primary voters are more pragmatic than hard line on immigration, as these polls of Iowa Republican caucus-goers’ views demonstrate (many more supported Gingrich’s more moderate views than Romney’s hawkish stances).

Looking back on the campaign recently, the National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein, an expert on both immigration policy and ethnic voters, called Romney’s lurch to the right on immigration his “original sin”:

Of all Romney’s primary-season decisions, the most damaging was his choice to repel the challenges from Perry and Gingrich by attacking them from the right — and using immigration as his cudgel. That process led Romney to embrace a succession of edgy, conservative positions anathema to many Hispanics…

Even so, once he had the nomination sewed up, Romney had a last chance to “Etch-a-Sketch” his way to the middle and regain his competitiveness with Latino voters. Florida Senator Marco Rubio began making loud noises — and garnering fawning press coverage — about introducing a “Republican version” of the DREAM Act. The plan reportedly would have offered permanent status but not a certain path to citizenship to young immigrants. Democrats were terrified that Rubio would ride in on his white horse from stage right, fill the vacuum created by Obama’s mishandling of the immigration issue and throw Romney a much-needed lifeline. Rubio set things up brilliantly and the Obama camp was sweating bullets. But an overly cautious Romney said, in effect, thanks but no thanks.

While Romney took a pass, Obama took a chance. On June 15, 2012 the President granted deferred action — relief from deportation and work permits — to 1.4 million DREAMers — young undocumented immigrants who are American in all but paperwork. It seems advocates were right all along — the President did have the authority to change immigration policy unilaterally.

The announcement changed the game. Not only was it the right thing to do, it was politically brilliant. It turned things around with Latino voters. By chance, Latino Decisions was in the middle of conducting a poll of Latino voters in key battleground states when the President made his announcement. The before and after results showed a huge spike in enthusiasm.

So, Romney missed the moment and Obama seized it. Since then, Obama has leaned into the issue with pride. A DREAMer spoke at the Democratic convention, he is running ads in Spanish touting his decision to protect them and he and his surrogates bring it up every chance they get. Meanwhile, Romney has thrown a few centrist head fakes and made noises about an unspecified “permanent solution” on immigration. But he has never disavowed or distanced himself his far right primary positions, and that is how he remains branded.

How much will it matter?

In August, as DREAMers lined up to apply for deferred action, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post wrote something that caught our attention:

Not too long ago, I sat down with a senior member of President Obama’s political team. Talk turned, as it often does, to the election, and the official said something that surprised me: If the President wins, this official thought that we would look back after the election and pinpoint the day the administration announced their new policy on deportations as the day the election was won….I didn’t think much of the Obama official’s comment at the time. But reading over some of the coverage of this policy change in local press, and looking at photos like this one, I’m starting to take it more seriously. Changing people’s lives is always more effective than another campaign ad. And this policy is looking like it’s going to change a lot of lives.

At a critical moment, and in contrast to Romney, the President showed courage. As Ezra Klein notes, it’s going to change a lot of lives. It’s also going to help President Obama win re-election on Tuesday.


Republican Headliners to GOP: We Need to Change Approach to Immigration

11/05/12 at 2:21 pm

We have written at length about the political ineptitude of Mitt Romney’s decision to run to the extreme right on immigration – the largest single factor behind Romney’s historically low standing among Latino voters.  Increasingly, prominent Republican figures are making similar assessments, recognizing that the GOP’s anti-immigration reputation will have to change if the Party is to ever gain votes from a rising Latino vote demographic.

As Alex Burns and Maggie Haberman write in POLITICO today, if Romney loses, “Immigration was a fatal blunder” will be one of the top post-mortem explanations: “It’s been one of the most consistent — and for Republicans, alarming — features of 2012 polling: Romney is getting blown out with Latino voters.  And he pretty much made his own bed with this powerful and growing demographic.  As early as September 2011, when Romney was running to Rick Perry’s right on immigration — Romney’s most memorable line on the subject was that illegal immigrants should choose to “self-deport” to their native countries — Republicans privately fretted that Romney was digging himself a demographic hole.  They were right: Romney’s likely to lose Latinos by a wider gap than McCain’s 36-point margin of defeat.  That could push states like Nevada, Virginia, Florida and Colorado into Obama’s column, and if Obama wins just a few of those battlegrounds, it will be exceptionally difficult for Romney to win nationally.  Should that scenario come to pass, Republican elites — who have long feared confinement to an aging and white voter base — will be ringing the alarm bells Wednesday morning.”

As the below voices make clear, some Republicans are already ringing the alarm bells:

  • Newt Gingrich, former GOP Speaker and presidential candidate, told Jonathan Martin of POLITICO(referring to immigration reform): “Once we deal with the issue, we’ll have a permanent majority for a generation…But until we do, we’re permanently in danger of losing.”
  • Terry Nelson, former field director of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, told National Journal: “The current coalition is hesitant to do the things we need to do.  But the math is not going to add up in the future for us if we continue to be overly reliant on the votes of white voters.  Certainly at the presidential level, sticking with this position [on immigration] will eventually put Republicans in a permanent minority position.”
  • Mark McKinnon, former aide to President George W. Bush, told The Hill, “If Republicans lose, it will be part for a failure to attract Hispanic votes…And a positive outcome would be a likely softening on immigration reform.”
  • Todd Harris, Republican strategist to POLITICO: “Too many Republicans treat harsh immigration rhetoric the way a smoker treats cigarettes…You know it’s going to kill you, but you do it anyway.”
  • Mike Murphy, Republican strategist said to Ron Brownstein of National Journal, “Too many of the party apparat and too many of the powerful subgroups are much more connected to nostalgia than they are to modern demographics.  I hear people talking about [Ronald] Reagan all the time, which is wonderful.  But sometimes I imagine they are competing in a America that demographically no longer exists… You’ve got to play on the other field or you can’t win…What we have to understand is, our field is shrinking and their field is growing.  If we ignore it, I think it will be totally self-destructive.  There will be a big fight in the party after the election between the mathematicians and the priests.”
  • Steve Schmidt, former Bush and McCain campaign official and Republican strategist, said to National Journal, “Even [if] Romney does in fact get the white vote at the level [he needs]… and is able to win the presidency with that, he will be the last Republican candidate that will do that.  The demographics of the country even four years from now will be such that that will be an impossibility.”  Schmidt alsotold the Wall Street Journal, “It’s deeply worrying…Eight years ago we were having conversations about getting 50% of the Hispanic vote.  Eight years later we’re worried about whether we’re going to get 30% nationally.”

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