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Immigration Started GOP's Decline in California Back in 1994. Will History Repeat Itself In Other States?

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Latino VoteWe’ve long said that what’s happened to the GOP in California over the last twenty years—as the Latino population expanded, and the Republican Party aligned itself with restrictionist immigration policies instead of more inclusive ones—is a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation.  Today’s front-page New York Times story titled, “Republican Party in California Is Caught in Cycle of Decline,” captures exactly what happens when the GOP tethers to the far right on immigration and changing demographics pass them by.

A new nationwide poll of Latino voters conducted by Latino Decisions, and sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and America’s Voice, finds that President Obama has grown his lead over Mitt Romney with Latino voters to a margin of 70%-22%, up from a 66%-23% margin in June polling. 

On a webinar today,  Matt Barreto from Latino Decisions and Frank Sharry from America’s Voice released the remaining results from this poll, examining Latino voters’ attitudes toward the two parties and their enthusiasm about the upcoming elections.

According to the New York Times;

The slide began in 1994, when Republicans rallied around a voter initiative, Proposition 187, that would have made it illegal for the government to provide services for undocumented aliens. That campaign created a political rupture with Hispanics at the very moment when their numbers were exploding.

Proposition 187 was the precursor to the anti-immigration laws passed this decade in Arizona, Alabama, and other states that have inspired nationwide outrage from the Latino community.  Former California Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s backing of Proposition 187 is widely credited for pushing Latino voters away from the GOP in California and turning what was once a swing state solidly blue.

Said Tom Del Beccaro, California’s Republican Party chairman:

The manner in which immigration is handled nationally presents a challenge to Republicans in California.

And he’s not the only California Republican struggling to unite with the party’s marginalization efforts.  Nathan Fletcher, a former Republican state assemblyman from San Diego, left his party to run as an independent for mayor.  “There are a series of issues where I am just fundamentally out of line with the current Republican Party in California — reasonable environmental protection, equal rights and marriage equality, immigration,” said Fletcher. “And it’s not a party that is welcoming of dissent on those issues.”

And, “the manner in which immigration is handled nationally presents a challenge to Republicans,” not only  in California, but in several other states with large populations of Latino voters. And, that full voting potential has yet to be realized, as evidenced in a post at Huffington Post,  “Number Of Unregistered Latino Voters Large Enough To Transform Red States Into Swing States”:

Right now in 10 battleground states — places where both the Obama and Romney campaigns say victory is feasible — there are 12.1 million unregistered, but potentially eligible, Latino adults, according to new data released late Thursday by the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank. In uber-important Florida, the state’s 1.4 million unregistered, potentially eligible Latino adults represent a group of voters five times larger than Obama’s margin of victory in 2008.

“If just a portion of these potential voters do come out and vote they could swing the election,” said Philip Wolgin, an immigration policy analyst at the center. “And while I don’t think that Texas is going to become a swing state tomorrow, I also don’t think that four years ago anyone thought that Arizona would be either. Look at it now.”

Click here for the updated infographic on how unregistered Latino voters and eligible-to-naturalize green card holders could swing the election from the Center for American Progress.

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