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Mitt Romney’s Vow To Veto DREAM Act Will Hurt GOP in General Election

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Yesterday, Mitt Romney was endorsed by John McCain. Today, McCain expressed concerns about the Republican strategy on immigration. From First Read:

Yesterday, one of us interviewed John McCain after he endorsed Romney at an event in New Hampshire. Toward the end of the interview, we asked McCain this question: Is Arizona in play in the general election? And his reaction was especially telling. He paused for a few moments and replied, “I think that if not this election cycle, the demographics are that Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, even Texas will all be in play.” McCain, who was once a principal architect of comprehensive immigration reform but who no longer supports it until the border is secured, added: “We have to fix our problems with the Hispanics.” Where does it start? “It starts with a way to address the issue of immigration in a humane and caring fashion — at the same time emphasize the need to secure our borders.”

McCain might want to share some of that perspective with Romney. The Latino vote is critical in this election cycle. It was the last election cycle, too. McCain lost in Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada because of the Latino vote. He’s a classic example of the GOP’s problem with immigration reform. Like Romney, McCain used to be for it. Not now. McCain even voted against the DREAM Act back in December of 2010. And, that brings us back to Romney and the DREAM Act.

Romney’s vow to veto the DREAM Act continues to reverberate.

Today on a press call, experts on Latino voters, the politics of immigration, and the DREAM Act highlighted how Mitt Romney’s recent pledge to veto the DREAM Act will imperil his chances in the general election.  Romney’s comments sit right at home with the GOP field, which has continued to stick to a strategy of tacking to the hard right on immigration throughout the primary season.  However, as speakers discussed today, findings from an updated America’s Voice report suggest that this strategy only serves to threaten the GOP’s chances in the general election.

Eliseo MedinaInternational Secretary Treasurer of SEIU, assessed the current state of play regarding the immigration debate, Latino voters, and the 2012 presidential race:

It’s not looking good for anti-immigrant Mitt here. Latino voters are paying attention to how Republicans talk about them, and their rejection of sensible programs like the DREAM Act are not playing well with the community.  Republicans think if they don’t appear in Hispanic media or at Hispanic venues Latinos won’t know what they’re up to—well, guess what? We speak English too. They can run but they can’t hide.

Supporting the DREAM Act means everything to the Latino community.  According to Lorella Praeli, Member of the National Coordinating Committee for United We Dream:

 For our communities, the DREAM Act has been a litmus test of whether a policy maker stands with us or against us. We’ve never heard a candidate for president say they’d veto the DREAM Act and we won’t stand for it now. Candidates should remember that language matters, and our communities are listening, and that we as DREAMers will make sure that our families and friends know where these candidates and policy makers stand. 

As the polls show, taking a hardline stance on immigration–and the DREAM Act in particular–will hurt GOP candidates with Latino voters, and is unpopular with the general electorate as well.  Polling from impreMedia and Latino Decisions in February 2011 shows that 58% of all voters support the DREAM Act.  In addition, 84% of Latino voters continue to overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act.

Latino polling expert Matt Barreto, Political Science Professor at University of Washington and Principal at Latino Decisions, furthered this research by saying:

Poll after poll shows that a clear majority of the American public, and over 80% of Latino voters, support passage of the DREAM Act. Governor Romney’s veto comments put him at great risk of alienating Latino voters and Independent voters nationwide.

According to David Damore, Professor of Political Science at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, Latinos have been playing a critical role in elections throughout his battleground state of Nevada:

As the 2010 U.S. Senate election in Nevada between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle demonstrated, the Latino vote and issues such as the DREAM Act can make the difference in America’s new swing region. As a consequence, Mitt Romney is likely to rue the day he promised to veto the DREAM Act as without even lifting a finger, President Obama’s 2012 prospects for winning not just Nevada, but also Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico improved.

As the updated America’s Voice report shows, the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies have been echoed by others in the GOP field.  Rick Santorum made yet another attempt to appeal to the far right on immigration by calling himself “a Steve King guy on immigration,” modeling himself after one of the most xenophobic and extreme congressional voices on immigration.  Additionally, fellow GOP contender Ron Paul supports repealing birthright citizenship and voted against the DREAM Act in 2010.  Paul also revealed that his opposition to “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants has a distinctly political element and stems from not wanting them to become voters: at an August debate, Paul said, “I don’t think that we should give amnesty and they become voters.”   

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, put it like this:

Romney’s commitment to veto the DREAM Act not only slams the door on opportunity for young immigrants who are Americans in all but paperwork, but further slams the door on his ability to win the Latino vote.  This is the most radical position a candidate can take, and for Latinos that are interested in the future of their communities, it is unacceptable to vote for someone that stands in the way of the aspirations and ambitions of young people who have done everything asked of them to contribute to the only country they know and love.

In an interview with Univision’s Mariana Atencio, Gaby Pacheco provided an excellent analysis of what Romney’s DREAM veto means: