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Warning to Democrats on Immigration Reform

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Yesterday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez sent a political warning to his fellow Democrats: If immigration reform doesn’t pass, as promised, Latinos won’t vote.

Without progress, the congressman warned that many Latinos would stay home from the polls.

According to exit polls, Obama received 70% of the Latino vote in 2008, boosting him to victory in the swing states of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida.

A poll last December by Latino Decisions, a research team specializing in the Latino vote, found that significant numbers of Latino voters would defect without passage of immigration reform.

“Democrats have to be very careful that they don’t push Latinos from frustration to an active attitude of punishing them for inaction,” said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a nonpartisan public policy analysis organization.

America’s Voice has been saying the same thing for months. The reason Barack Obama won states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida was because of heightened Latino turnout and support. As a candidate, President Obama promised to pass immigration reform during his first year in office, winning him strong support among Latinos that continued through 2009. A poll conducted by Bendixen and Associates last May showed that 72% of Latinos trusted the president to keep that promise to pass reform, and 83% trust that he will ultimately “do the right thing” on immigration.

An under-reported development in 2008 was also the swing within the Latino immigrant vote (foreign-born, naturalized citizens who are Latino) – which swung from 52-48 Kerry-Bush to 75-25 Obama-McCain.  Not only is the Latino immigrant vote a highly volatile segment of the Latino electorate, but immigration reform with a path to earned citizenship is a top issue priority for these voters.

In other words, Latino immigrant voters, are the group that Democrats need to consolidate and that Republicans can potentially0020chip away at (they can call it a “reconquista”).