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Immigration Politics: The Week that Was & What it Means

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This has been a historic week on immigration policy in an election year.  Below is the America’s Voice take on some of the major political storylines surrounding immigration.

  • If upheld, the Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona “show me your papers” provision would have a huge mobilizing effect on Latino voters.  At the Supreme Court’s Arizona v. United States hearing on Wednesday, the narrow legal focus of the proceedings and Justices’ related discussion led many commentators to speculate that the “show me your papers” provision of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law would likely stand.  A ruling to uphold the law would not only unleash widespread discrimination in Arizona and other states with copycat legislation, it would mobilize Latino voters and other voters for whom the immigration debate is important and viewed through a personal lens.  Regardless of the outcome, the ruling will have major political ramifications in 2012 presidential race.  Coming in the heat of a race in which Democrats hope for huge Latino turnout and Republicans hope for just the opposite, the decision will draw a sharp contrast between a President who fought the Arizona law and a Republican nominee who supports it.
  • “Will Mitt Etch-a-Sketch on immigration?” Probably not, but if he does, it won’t work. In diagnosing Mitt Romney’s problem with Latino voters, many commentators have concluded that Romney will tack toward the middle on immigration. We beg to differ. He may come up with some legal immigration package designed to soften his image a bit, but it’s our view that he has pandered too much and too recently to the nativist minority in the GOP to flip flop now. The last thing the Romney campaign wants is a fight with the right over immigration combined with a week of stories about his “Etch-a-Sketch” on immigration. And if we are wrong and he does shift positions, would it work? We think not. He’s already branded with Latino voters.  As Ron Brownstein notes of recent polling, “Obama’s share of the vote among Latinos notably exceeds his approval rating with them. That’s a telling measure of how much Romney has alienated those voters, because it’s unusual for a president to poll much above his approval rating with any group.”  And Latino voters are not stupid.  They are not going to fall for a little general election shuffle.  Just ask Meg Whitman.  Some salt and pepper for the stew: Andrew Sullivan predicts Romney will stay hard right here; Michael Tomasky thinks Romney will bust a move to the center but argues it wouldn’t work here.
  • Marco Rubio’s DREAMs: looking past 2012 to 2016?  The chatter surrounding Senator Marco Rubio’s impending legislation modeled on the DREAM Act has reached a fever pitch. Much of the commentary focuses on what Rubio and the DREAM legislation might mean for Romney in 2012 and Rubio’s chances in the Veepstakes.  Again, we beg to differ.  We doubt Rubio will be the VP choice and we believe he has a longer-term vision in mind. Our take is that Rubio knows Romney is cooked with Latino voters and is already focused on Republican Party’s post-2012 effort to repair its image among Latino voters.  Eventual passage of a Rubio-championed DREAM Act would indeed help Rubio’s chances to be the leader of a more Latino-friendly GOP going into 2016.
  • Pundits and insiders agree – immigration helping Democrats and hurting Republicans: What a difference a few years makes.  During 2005 and 2006, many Republicans thought they would reap the political rewards of using a hard line immigration stance as a wedge issue.  Though post-election analyses in 2006, 2008, and 2010 showed that a hardline immigration position did not help politically, and in many cases hurt candidates politically, it seems as though the conventional wisdom has finally caught up with the election results.  A National Journal’s political Insiders generally agreed across the aisle that the issue of immigration stands to help Democrats and hurt Republicans in the November elections.  Almost half of the Democratic Insiders said the immigration issue would “help a little” while a little more than a third said it would “help a lot.” Among the Republican insiders, more than half believed immigration would “hurt a little,” a handful predicted it would “hurt a lot,” while three in ten said the issue would have “no effect.”

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