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Panel of Nevada and DC-Based Political Analysts and Immigrant Advocates Discuss the Politics of Immigration in the 2012

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Today, at a live streamed panel at the Greenspun Auditorium of the University of Nevada-Las VegasWashington, DC and Nevada-based political analysts, advocates, and community leaders discussed how Latino voters and the immigration issue will shape the Presidential, Senate and House races in Nevada and beyond.  There, UNLV Associate Professor David Damore released fresh polling of Latino voters in Nevada, conducted by Latino Decisions for America’s Voice.

This comes on the heels of a stunning statement on immigration policy from the Romney campaign.  After first declaring that a President Romney would not revoke work permits granted to DREAMers under the new Obama initiative, the Romney campaign later clarified that he would, in fact, end the program for future applicants.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, who moderated the panel at UNLV: “Governor Romney just declared that if elected President, he would stomp on the dreams of about 1 million young immigrants who are eligible for work permits, but don’t yet have their papers in hand.  That is a stunning revelation.  Our poll shows that Nevada Latino voters care deeply about the immigration issue, and find policies like this offensive.  There is no way Romney can reach his campaign’s goal of winning 38% of the Latino vote, in Nevada or nationwide, by embracing policies like this.”

In key swing states like Nevada and at the national level, Latino and new citizen voters are changing politics.  According to Matt Barreto, Co-Founder of Latino Decisions, “The Latino vote has grown considerably in Nevada, and there is no doubt that Latino voters will decide how Nevada breaks in the Presidential and U.S. Senate elections in 2012.  Candidates need to engage and mobilize the Latino vote if they want to win Nevada.”

Said David Damore, “As these polling results make clear, until the Republican Party moderates its positions on immigration related issues, Republican candidates will continue to struggle to gain the support of Latino voters.”

“The immigration issue is key for Latino voters in Nevada because it’s personal. Over a quarter of Latino voters here are naturalized citizens and more of them speak and rely on Spanish than Latinos in other states,” said Andres Ramirez, President of the Ramirez Group.  “President Obama’s deferred action policy has had a big impact on Latino voter enthusiasm here. It’s time for Senator Heller and Nevada’s House candidates to clarify whether they support Obama or Romney’s position on deferred action.”

While they care about the same issues as all Americans, these voters have a unique and personal connection to the immigration debate that shapes their political views.  Today’s poll release shows exactly that.

Among the poll’s findings:

Nevada Latinos Favor Democrats by Wide Margins

  • In the presidential race, 78% of respondents said that they’re certain to or are thinking about voting for President Obama, 17% say they are  certain to or are thinking about voting for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and 5% are undecided.
  • In the U.S. Senate race, 58% of respondents said they they’re certain to or are thinking about voting for Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), 26% say that they are certain to or are thinking about voting for incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R), and 15% are undecided.
  • When asked “(in) the upcoming elections for U.S. Congress in November, do you plan to vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate in your district?”  66% of respondents said they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate, 13% said they plan to vote for the Republican candidate, and 14% are undecided or don’t know.

Nevada Candidates’ Immigration Positions Matter to Latinos

  • Upon learning (after stating their candidate preference in the U.S. Senate race as reported above) of Dean Heller’s opposition to the DREAM Act and his support for changing the “Constitution so that children born in the United States cannot be given American citizenship if their parents are illegal immigrants” 70% of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic” about Heller, while 3% said they were “more enthusiastic” about him.
  • Upon learning (after stating their candidate preference in the U.S. Senate race as reported above ) of Rep. Shelley Berkley’s support for the DREAM Act, 65% of respondents said that they felt “more enthusiastic” about Berkley, while 10% said that they felt “less enthusiastic.”

Immigration Debate at the National Level is Still Very Important

  • 32% of respondents said that immigration was “the most important issue” in their decision to vote in 2012 and 32% said it was “one of the most important issues.”
  • After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 63% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama and 7% said that they were “less enthusiastic.”  Meanwhile, after hearing about Mitt Romney’s statements on “self-deportation” and his support for Arizona’s SB 1070, 7% of respondents said that they were “more enthusiastic” about Romney and 67% of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic.”
  • When asked “thinking ahead to the November 2012 presidential election, how enthusiastic are you about voting in the election next year?,” 68% of respondents said that they were “very enthusiastic” about voting in the upcoming election.  In a separate question that asked “would you say you are more enthusiastic about voting in 2012, or that you were more enthusiastic about voting back in 2008?” 64% said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting in 2012 than they were about voting in 2008.

Astrid Silva, Founding Member, DREAM Big Vegas, said, “It is very important to me that this discussion take place because we often only talk about the issue important to the Latino community around our kitchen tables.  In Nevada, immigration is a top issue in our community — it affects so many of us. With over 23,000 DREAMers eligible for deferred action living in Nevada, we’re counting on our community to give us a voice at the voting booth this election.”