Today, America’s Voice releases an updated version of the report Why Do Elephants Put their Heads in the Sand?, which examines the immigration record and rhetoric of the Republican presidential field. The report assesses how, in contrast to past Republican leaders like Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party as a whole has moved to the anti-immigrant right. As a result, the GOP’s stance on immigration will hurt its competitiveness with Latino voters in 2012 battleground states. For example, Mitt Romney’s recent pledge to veto the DREAM Act crystalizes the problems that he and the Republican Party as a whole have in regards to immigration and Latino voters.
On a press call tomorrow, Thursday January 5th at 11 AM Eastern, experts on Latino voters, the politics of immigration, and the DREAM Act will gather to discuss why Romney’s recent comments on the DREAM Act – and the entire field’s strategy of tacking to the hard right on immigration in the primaries – threaten the GOP’s chances in the general election (see call-in information below). The speakers will also share analysis and insight from the updated America’s Voice report. For example, the report assesses the immigration record and rhetoric of the top four finishers in last night’s Iowa caucuses:
Mitt Romney: Examining Mitt Romney’s immigration stance during the 2012 campaign, it’s hard to believe that this is the same man who once said Republicans who opposed President Bush’s proposal for comprehensive immigration reform “made a big mistake.” But while the endorsement of Joe Arpaio during the 2008 campaign wasn’t enough to protect Romney from charges of weakness on immigration, his anti-immigrant cred throughout the 2012 campaign has been impeccable. Romney has made immigration the centerpiece of his attack on two different rivals for the nomination, only to discover that immigration is not the potent wedge issue he seemed to believe. As the presumptive Republican frontrunner, Romney’s current stance on immigration—including his pledge to veto the DREAM Act if passed–will cost him with Latino voters. Lionel Sosa, a Republican strategist who worked for George W. Bush and John McCain, predicted to the New York Times that Romney “can make as many trips to Florida and New Mexico and Colorado and other swing states that have a large Latino population, but he can write off the Latino vote. He’s not going to gain it again.”
Rick Santorum: Former Senator Rick Santorum was a vocal opponent of comprehensive immigration reform in 2006. He made anti-immigrant rhetoric a key part of his reelection campaign that fall, but it wasn’t a winning strategy. Santorum’s strategy on immigration during the campaign has been to try to outdo his opponents in the callousness of his casual statements about immigrants. Whether confusing “illegal voters” with “Latino voters” or assuming that all undocumented immigrants come from Mexico, Santorum’s comments have said plenty about how he, and most of the other Republican candidates, see the nation’s fastest-growing voter bloc. In the final days before the Iowa caucuses, Santorum made yet another attempt to appeal to the far right on immigration by calling himself “a Steve King guy on immigration.”
Ron Paul: Texas Representative Ron Paul is far from a classic pro-immigration libertarian. Though he opposes mandatory E-Verify legislation, Paul supports repealing birthright citizenship, voted against the DREAM Act in 2010, and said this summer, “why do we pay more attention to the borders overseas and less attention to the borders here at home.” Notably, 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.”
Newt Gingrich: Gingrich, alone among the Republican field, has proposed an immigration plan that would allow some of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country to obtain legal status. However, since Gingrich only wants to deport 9 million people as opposed to 11 million people, it would be a mistake to label him a moderate on the issue. In fact, his position on immigration reform is far to the right of what George W. Bush and John McCain once supported. Though Gingrich failed to protect his earlier lead in the Iowa polls and finished fourth overall, there’s no evidence that his immigration position played a role. In fact, in the weeks following Gingrich’s immigration comments and after his challengers attacked him vociferously on this issue, polling showed that Iowa voters nonetheless trusted Gingrich the most on immigration among the field of candidates. Overall, voters in the primary season are less focused on the immigration issue that candidates seem to think. For example, in Iowa caucus entrance polling, immigration was nowhere to be seen among the top issues motivating Republican caucus-goers’ votes.
Read the updated America’s Voice report: Why Do Elephants Put their Heads in the Sand?
To join the press call on immigration and the GOP at 11 AM Eastern on January 5th, dial 1-800-894-5910; Passcode: DREAM.
America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.