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After Arizona, Public in General, and Latinos in Particular, Want Action on Immigration Reform

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Washington, DC – New analysis of the role Latino voters will play in contested races this November and new independent polling by the New York Times and CBS News point to the fact that moving forward on immigration reform would be both good politics for Democrats and broadly supported by the public. 

The new analysis by Public Policy Polling (PPP) notes that Democratic Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are underperforming among Latinos in their re-election campaigns when compared with President Obama’s performance in their states in 2008.  PPP notes that “simply matching Obama’s level of support among Hispanics in their state” would “take 5 points off Reid’s current polling deficit, about half of the margin in most polls.  And it would give Bennet a two point advantage in our numbers, enough to turn a tie into a small lead.”  The pollsters also note that the signer of the new controversial Arizona immigration law, Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) “may well have handed Reid and Bennet the issue that will get Hispanics back to voting Democratic at the same levels they did in 2008.” 

These findings are consistent with recent analysis by America’s Voice, which examined 42 U.S. Senate, House, and gubernatorial races where Latino voters can make a difference in 2010 and found that immigration issues help drive Latino political engagement.  Following a weekend in which more than 500,000 people attended more than 90 rallies across the nation to march in favor of immigration reform and in opposition to the new Arizona immigration law, the new politics of immigration are coming into sharp relief. 

Meanwhile, a new New York Times/CBS News poll shows that Americans remain conflicted about the new Arizona law, but continue to support reform that includes a path to legal status.  Frustration with the status quo comes through loud and clear: “Just 8 percent of Americans said the immigration system needed only minor changes.  The vast majority said it needed reworking, including 44 percent who said it needed to be completely rebuilt and 45 percent who said it needed fundamental changes.”  Voters are so frustrated that half of those polled are sympathetic to the Arizona law. 

But underneath the headlines about Arizona, the poll demonstrates broad support for a path to legal status for the undocumented – a full 64% of respondents supported options to either allow the undocumented to “stay and apply for citizenship” (43%) or “stay as guest workers” (21%), while only 32% supported the enforcement-only option, “require to leave jobs and the U.S.”  These findings are consistent with past polling.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The politics of immigration reform may seem obscure to some, but to us the message is clear: Latinos see immigration reform as the defining issue, and the public supports immigration reform that includes a path to legal status.  As we head into midterm season, most politicians run for cover.  But Democrats interested in running on results and Republicans interested in rehabilitating their brand with the fastest-growing group of voters should come together to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year.  So far, the Senate Democrats have stepped up.  So far, the Republicans have stepped back.  The clock is ticking.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.