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Do GOP Senate Candidates in AZ, FL, and NV Support Romney’s Pledge to End DREAMer Deferred Action?

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As New Polling Shows Popularity of DREAMer Program, Senate Candidates Face Key Question

This week, as a range of national and state polling demonstrates the popularity of pro-immigration reform positions like the DREAMer deferred action program, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made it clear that he would shut down the DREAMer protection program as soon as a President Romney would be inaugurated.  As immigration is a pivotal issue in 2012 Senate races states such as Arizona, Florida, and Nevada, GOP candidates in each of these states will need to decide if they support Romney’s decision to end DREAMer relief.

Earlier this week, Romney’s campaign clarified important policy details about his immigration plans, explaining that a President Romney would shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program upon his inauguration (a critical distinction after signaling in an earlier interview that Romney might be softening his immigration stance). This means that only a small percentage of eligible DREAMers who receive deportation exemptions before January 20, 2013 would receive protection under a President Romney, leaving the vast majority of those eligible out in the cold.

Polls demonstrate Romney’s pledge is out of step with the majority of Americans.  A CNN/ORC poll on immigration policy released this week found that with respect to the DACA program, 64% of registered voters said the new policy was “about right,” while 15% said it does not go far enough.  Only 18% said the program goes too far.

Meanwhile, a series of state-based polls of Latino voters in key battleground states shows that immigration is a defining issue for Latino voters this year – and a major factor in Latinos’ support for Democratic candidates.  Conducted by Latino Decisions on behalf of America’s Voice, and being released in conjunction with panel discussions about immigration and Latino politics in each state, the new polls make a convincing case for why the Republican Senate candidates down the ballot from Mitt Romney should think twice about embracing Romney’s latest hardline immigration position.

In the key 2012 Senate races of Arizona, Florida, and Nevada, Republican candidates Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL), and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) each voted against the DREAM Act as House members in December 2010.  As the Latino Decisions polls demonstrate, their opposition to DREAM already is a major hurdle in their efforts to attract Latino voter support.  Will they really compound this mistake by agreeing with Romney’s pledge to end DACA?

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “In the Senate races in Arizona, Florida, and Nevada and in downballot races throughout the nation, the Republican candidates will need to decide for themselves whether they will embrace or distance themselves from Romney’s pledge to end the DREAMer relief program.  Latino voters and all Americans, however, have already decided.  They embrace the policy because they believe it makes little sense to target kids who simply want to give back to the country they call home.”

Among the findings in the Latino Decisions state polls:

Nevada’s poll found that Latino voters in the state support President Obama by a 78%-17% margin over Mitt Romney and Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Shelley Berkley by a 58%-26% margin over incumbent Republican Senator Heller.  After hearing about President Obama’s deferred action policy, 63% of respondents in the Nevada poll said that they were “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama, while after hearing about Mitt Romney’s statements on “self-deportation” and his support for Arizona’s SB 1070, 67% of respondents said that they were “less enthusiastic” about voting for him.  After learning of Berkley’s support for the DREAM Act, 65% of respondents were “more enthusiastic” (only 10% “less enthusiastic”), while learning of Sen. 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,” made 70% of respondents “less enthusiastic” about Heller (only 3% “more enthusiastic”).

Florida’s poll found that Obama leads Romney among Florida Latino voters by a 61%-31% margin, while incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson holds a 53%-32% lead over his Republican challenger, Rep. Mack.  Obama’s deferred action policy made 53% of Florida Latinos “more enthusiastic” about voting for Obama versus only 9% who said “less enthusiastic.”  Romney’s support for “self-deportation” and Arizona’s SB1070 made 57% “less enthusiastic” and only 11% of Florida Latinos “more enthusiastic” about supporting Romney. Upon learning of Rep. Mack’s opposition to the DREAM Act and his support for building a border fence, 13% of respondents said they were “more enthusiastic” about Mack him while 54% said that they were “less enthusiastic” about him, while after learning of Sen. Bill Nelson’s support for the DREAM Act, 61% of respondents said that they felt “more enthusiastic” about Nelson, while 8% said that they felt “less enthusiastic.”

Arizona’s new Latino poll, exploring immigration preferences and offering fresh head-to-head numbers in the presidential race and the competitive Senate race between Rep. Flake and Democrat Richard Carmona, will be released next Tuesday, October 9th at a panel event held at Arizona State University at 3-4:30 PM MST/6-7:30 Eastern.  While Rep. Flake’s campaign released its first Spanish-language ad this week, calling Carmona a potential “rubber stamp” for President Obama’s policies, perhaps the more relevant question is whether Jeff Flake would be a “rubber stamp” for Romney’s pledge to end the DREAMer deferred action program – which enjoys deep popularity among Arizona’s sizeable and growing Latino voting community.

Select poll information for next Tuesday’s event in Arizona will be available ahead of time under embargo.  To request a copy of the embargoed information for Arizona, please email katy@newpartners.com

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