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America's Voice Report: 2012 Elections Offer Takeaways for 2013 Immigration Debate

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The Huffington Post reports that President Obama is planning to move “full steam ahead” on immigration reform this January, with the White House planning “to push forward quickly.”  Meanwhile, both movement conservatives and Republican leaders are calling for Republicans to engage in a new way on immigration.  As a new America’s Voice report makes clear, this political breakthrough could lead to a policy breakthrough on immigration in 2013 if both parties heed the lessons of recent elections.

For example, the elections made it clear that Democrats have new leverage in the immigration debate but need to deliver in order to show Latino voters that they can lead and accomplish core priorities.  As the post-election memo outlines, Democrats win politically across the spectrum when they lean into the immigration issue and fight for real reform.

At the same time, the Republican Party has no other choice but to change on immigration if it wants to rebuild its image with Latino voters.  While George W. Bush received approximately 40% of the Latino vote in 2004, only 23% of a much larger Latino electorate supported Mitt Romney in 2012.  The largest single reason behind this decline was the GOP’s embrace of a hard-line immigration stance in the intervening years.  As the new America’s Voice memo outlines, a pro-immigration reform Republican Party could win enough Latino support to remain a viable national party, while continuing to follow the Mitt Romney/Lamar Smith playbook will continue to lose them elections.  Additionally, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, the Republican primary electorate and many general election swing voting blocs are more pragmatic than hard-line on the issue.

To add on to what CNN analyst David Gergen said in his Election Day analysis: immigration reform will happen because Americans support it, Democrats promised it, and Republicans need it.