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Candidates Leaning In: Political Ads Tout Support for Immigration Reform, DREAM Act

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As we enter the thick of campaign season, we’re starting to see the new paradigm of immigration politics play out in television ads. Candidates who support common sense reform are leaning into the issue. And, they’re pushing that message to an important constituency: Latino voters.

The Obama/Biden campaign has Spanish language ads on the air in several battleground states.  So far, we’ve seen these proactive ads run by Senate candidates in Nevada and Virginia. Given the importance of the immigration issue to Latino voters, we’d expect to see similar strategies in Florida by Bill Nelson, whose opponent Connie Mack, voted against the DREAM Act; In Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren’s opponent, Scott Brown, also voted against DREAM; and, in New Mexico, where Democratic Congressman Martin Heinrich has been an outspoken advocate while his opponent, Heather Wilson, has vacillated (at best.) Also, it’s hard to imagine that Richard Carmona won’t be using the immigration issue against Jeff Flake in Arizona.

The latest example is in the swing state of Nevada, where immigration politics played a decisive role in Harry Reid’s reelection in 2010. This week, in Nevada, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley is running a Spanish language ad touting her support for the DREAM Act, which her opponent, Rep. Dean Heller, voted against:

In a new ad targeted to Hispanic voters, Senate candidate Shelley Berkley says Democrats are the only hope of young “DREAMers” who want to remain in the United States.

The 30-second Spanish language commercial begins airing Wednesday statewide. It plays up Berkley’s support for the DREAM Act that would provide a path to citizenship for young people who were brought into the country illegally as children but who have been raised and educated here.

The DREAM Act enjoys wide support among Latino voters, a key constituency in Nevada that Democrats need to turn out in big numbers on Election Day to help both Berkley and President Barack Obama.

This is Berkley’s second Spanish-language appeal, following a statewide commercial in early August that also sought to contrast her support for the DREAM Act and student aid with Republican opponent Sen. Dean Heller.

In the new ad a female narrator speaks over snippets of young people in classroom settings and a shot of Berkley alongside Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a popular Hispanic leader. “Thousands of young people known as DREAMers now stand in line to work legally. It’s a step in the right direction,” the narrator says. “But their future depends on which party will control Washington.”

In addition to opposing the DREAM Act, Heller has taken the extreme position of wanting to change to the 14th Amendment — a favored policy of hard-core nativists. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Heller’s 14th Amendment views outlined in an ad.

Here’s Berkley’s ad:

In August, President Obama’s reelection campaign also ran a Spanish language ad touting his new DREAM relief policy:

The Obama campaign is out with a new Spanish-language ad touting President Obama’s decision to implement some portion of the DREAM Act through executive order.

“They are known as ‘The DREAMers,’ came here as children, obeyed their parents, studied to overcome,” the ad says.

Though the real DREAM Act — providing a pathway to citizenship — remains stalled in Congress, President Obama announced a deportation halt freezer earlier in the summer for most of the undocumented immigrations covered by the bill.

The ad will air in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, according to the campaign.

Here’s the Obama campaign ad:

Last month, Tim Kaine, the candidate for Senate in Virginia, ran a Spanish language ad touting his support for comprehensive immigration reform:

Kaine, in impeccable Spanish, touts his time spent as a Catholic missionary in Honduras, where he “learned more about faith and family,” as pictures of a bearded young Kaine scroll by. He then says as governor he worked with the Hispanic community to expand preschool education programs and promises as senator to increase education funding and fight for immigration reform.

That Kaine has released the ad shows the increasing importance of Virginia’s fast-growing Hispanic community, which doubled in the last decade and is now 8.2 percent of the statewide population.

We’ll continue to monitor the politics of immigration in the 2012 elections. And, we’re expecting to see a lot more ads by those who lean in.