tags: Press Releases

GOP 2012 Field on Immigration – The Self-Defeating Strategy Continues

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Candidates, Including Rick Perry, Continue to Alienate Latino Voters

Just as they have in past election cycles, Republican presidential candidates are struggling with the issue of immigration.  Judging from early lessons from the burgeoning 2012 race, the Republicans’ strategy appears to be: stick to their border security sound bites and avoid the other immigration issues at all costs.  Yet such a balancing act remains increasingly tenuous for any of the 2012 candidates – including the newest entry into the field, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).  Unless leading Republicans change their anti-immigrant ways, they will have a hard time winning a national election.   

At last Thursday’s FOX News debate, the GOP presidential candidates ducked and dodged a key question on immigration: “as President, what would they do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country today?”  We heard the usual talking points about border security, but little about what the candidates would do with undocumented immigrants living in this country today.  Governor Huntsman was directly asked, but didn’t answer.  None of the candidates were pushed, which isn’t surprising given the venue.  FOX News just accepted the spin. 

But as Andres Oppenheimer points out in his column in yesterday’s Miami Herald, even if they avoid saying the words, they still send the message that they are for mass deportation.  Oppenheimer believes the Republicans’ immigration strategy could cost them the election, as the debate cements the GOP’s anti-Latino image among Latino voters.    

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice: “When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.  A hard line and avoiding tough questions on immigration won’t win Republican candidates support from the Latino community.  Embracing practical, comprehensive immigration reform would improve their image with both Latino voters and the broader electorate.”

During last week’s debate, the candidates stressed mainly the need for “border security first” and their love of “legal” immigration.  The fact is, the border is far safer than portrayed by Republican politicians, and the flow of immigrants coming into the U.S. illegally has dropped to all-time lows.  Declaring that the border must be “secure” before any other immigration reforms are considered is a political talking point, not a plan to fix the broken immigration system.   

“When will the border be ‘secure enough’ that Republican presidential candidates agree to move onto other issues, like the status of undocumented immigrants who have been here for years, working and raising families?  My guess is, not while Barack Obama is president,” Tramonte continued.      

Texas Governor Rick Perry’s entry into the race is unlikely to change things.  As governor, the only thing consistent about Perry’s immigration views is his inconsistency.  After initially criticizing Arizona’s SB 1070 ‘papers, please’ anti-immigration law, Perry tried to ram through a police state law that mimics key portions of the Arizona law.  And Perry supports the Texas law that allows some undocumented students to attend state colleges at in-state tuition rates, but opposes the federal DREAM Act which would allow these same students to work legally after graduating from college. 

“Latinos are the fastest-growing voter group, and they are not easily fooled.  The GOP’s hard-line anti-immigration approach is making it impossible for Republican candidates to compete for these voters.  Instead of embracing a practical solution that is in line with what the vast majority of Latino voters and other Americans want, the GOP primary field is throwing red meat to the base and hoping Latino voters aren’t listening or don’t understand. 

“Perhaps the only GOP candidate who is being up front with Latino voters in Rep. Ron Paul, who said that he opposes ‘amnesty’ because it could turn immigrants into voters.  That’s a very revealing statement.  Rather than working to win over this electorate by embracing policies they support, he’d like to keep them from voting in the first place,” Tramonte concluded. 

For more on the politics of immigration and Republican 2012 Presidential candidates, see:

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