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As Spotlight Shines On Fiorina, Reminders That She Won’t Fix GOP’s Immigration & Latino Problems

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Devastating Loss of Latino Vote in CA 2010 Senate Race Was Even Worse Than Romney’s Total

The consensus takeaway from last night’s Republican presidential debate is that Carly Fiorina was the big winner, perhaps emerging as the leading alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump.  Yet when it comes to Fiorina’s ability to potentially help the Republican Party make new inroads to Latino voters and repair its tarnished anti-immigrant brand, there is no indication that Fiorina is up for the job.  In fact, her loss in a 2010 U.S. Senate race in California to incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is a reminder that Fiorina should know first-hand the dangers of alienating Latino voters and the toll of a GOP brand that is permanently branded as anti-immigrant.

According to a 2010 election eve poll of Latino voters by Latino Decisions, Sen. Boxer won Latino voters by a whopping 86%-14% margin over Fiorina in their 2010 Senate contest.  During that 2010 contest, Fiorina endorsed the DREAM Act, but also supported a range of hardline immigration policies, such as support for the Arizona “papers, please,” SB1070 immigration law and opposition to immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.  Fiorina also undoubtedly suffered from the “R” next to her name in the eyes of the Latino electorate in California.  Ever since Gov. Pete Wilson (R) pushed through the infamous anti-immigrant Proposition 187 and ignited a political backlash from the state’s changing electorate in 1994, the California Republican Party’s brand with Latino voters has been tarnished, helping make the GOP non-competitive in the vast majority of subsequent statewide elections.  The California example is an ongoing cautionary tale for the national Republican Party as it continues to lurch in an anti-immigrant direction.

Now in her run for the White House, Fiorina remains opposed to comprehensive reform and a pathway to citizenship and is even backing away from her previous endorsement of the DREAM Act in favor of the vacuous “secure the border first” assertion (telling Katie Couric: “In California, I supported the Dream Act because I think that you cannot punish children who came here through no will of their own as young children, but I also think we have the cart backwards, when we pass something called the Dream Act before we’ve even secured the border all we’re doing is making the problem worse … the federal government’s first job, honestly, is to protect the nation and secure the border, why don’t you secure the border, you could, we should, we haven’t.”)  In fact, despite the article of faith in GOP circles that our border is out of control, “illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades,” according to the Washington Post, and the border is arguably more secure and flush with resources than at any time in modern U.S. history.  Even the conservative Washington Examiner is out with an editorial today that chides Republican contenders for being “obsessed with an immigration crisis that is already over,” concluding that “mass illegal immigration just isn’t happening anymore.”

GOPers are not interested in these stubborn facts.  As Republicans lurch to the right on immigration, the Party’s general election problems with Latinos are becoming more acute.  Not only are Republicans poised to repeat the mistakes of 2012, when Mitt Romney’s hardline primary stances helped destroy his general election chances with Latinos, but they seem intent to double down on Romney’s mistake.  Keep in mind the analysis from Latino Decisions that the 2016 Republican nominee will need to win between 42-47% of Latinos to win the 2016 presidential popular vote and recognize that the Latino voting bloc is growing more sizeable by the day – a recent article in National Journal highlighted that, “Every 30 seconds, a Latino turns 18 and becomes eligible to vote.  That’s about 66,000 every month, or 800,000 every year, according to the Pew Research Center.”

And perhaps most troubling for the Republicans’ general election chances, there are growing signs that the virulence of the GOP’s anti-immigrant and anti-Latino campaign thus far could spark unprecedented Latino voter engagement for the coming 2016 cycle.  As leading Congressional immigrant rights champion, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, stated: “The way we respond to racism is by voting and in Latino and immigrant communities, we are getting that message loud and clear.”  This weekend alone, scores of events across the nation will guide eligible immigrants through the citizenship process – one that will likely end in the voting booth.

As Janet Murguía, the President and CEO of NCLR, recently wrote, “Latinos are responding against this demonization in the most American of ways: immigrants who are eligible are becoming citizens, and those who are citizens are registering to vote.  And NCLR and our nationwide network of Affiliates are there every step of the way to see this through, ensuring that we use our voice in the most powerful way we know how—to vote on Election Day.”