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Immigration Matters:  The Experts Weigh In on the Election and Beyond

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 Event Analyzes Future of Immigration Policy, Results of New Swing District Polling on Immigration Issue 

Immigration does matter.  Not only is the issue alive in the hearts and minds of American voters, but it was a mobilizing force in this election for Latinos.  It motivated unprecedented turnout by this emerging voting bloc, which has been credited for the Democratic sweep across the country. 

This morning, an event moderated by America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry included analysis from Janet Murguia, President and CEO of National Council of La Raza and Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN, and presentations of new polling by David Mermin, Partner at Lake Research Partners and Pete Brodnitz, Principal at Benenson Strategy Group examining voters’ attitudes on immigration reform.

Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) voters consider illegal immigration to be a serious issue, and overwhelmingly, they favor a comprehensive approach to immigration reform.  By more than 2 to 1 (57% to 28%), voters prefer enacting comprehensive immigration reform to an enforcement only approach.  While the economy is the top issue on the minds of voters, more than 6 in 10 (62%) believe we would be better off if people who are in the United States illegally became legal taxpayers than leave the country because they are taking away American jobs (21%).

“Voters overwhelmingly say they prefer a comprehensive solution to one that is piecemeal, and they see a comprehensive solution as consistent with helping the economy,” said Brodnitz.

“When immigration is part of the political debate, as it has been the past few years, it becomes a test by which Latinos gauge how politicians and parties regard us. It’s a civil rights issue as much as a debate about policy to Latinos.  Stirring up anti-immigrant rhetoric does not work, but it has energized one group – Latinos,” added Murguia.   “Latinos made their voices heard in this election and played a decisive role, especially in the four states of Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada.”

The polling presented at the event, which included overall national results and analysis of both Latino voters and swing voters from key battleground congressional races, echoes the results from the 2008 elections: Americans are seeking practical and common sense reform to the broken immigration system and favor approaches and candidates emphasizing sensible reforms instead of enforcement-only provisions.  

The conventional wisdom that dominated in the media following the immigration reform debates in 2006 and 2007 appears to be erroneous, according to the polling results. “They may be very loud, but there aren’t very many enforcement-only voters,” said Mermin.

“The Republicans grossly misread American sentiment on this issue. When the GOP began to demonize immigrants themselves, they misread Americans’ anger on this issue, which is directed at government and corporations,” continued Rosenberg. “The American people are ready for leaders to fix the broken immigration system.  The Republican Party has to sue for peace on this issue or else they will see the Electoral Map permanently lost.”

Like the polling results, a new report from America’s Voice, Republicans: Fenced In by Immigration, documented that Americans are seeking practical and common sense reforms. The report found that in 19 of 21 key battleground races throughout the country, the winners advocated immigration policies beyond enforcement-only.

“The 2008 election proved that the conventional wisdom on immigration was wrong,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.  “It was wrongly believed that the political costs of a common sense reform position were too great with swing voters, but the electoral results are the opposite.  19 of 21 candidates supporting an enforcement only position lost. With Latino and swing voters interested in reform there is a huge amount of political space for Congress to act. ” 

The lesson learned, Americans care about immigration reform.   They see immigration reform as a high priority for the new administration and frankly, the Democrats cannot afford to get this wrong.  “Latinos are still swing voters” pointed out Janet Murguia.  “They are like any American voter, they want a party that cares about the issues that are important to them.” 

Relevant presentations from the event are available at:


For audio of the press conference, please visit:


The America’s Voice’s report, Republicans: Fenced In by Immigration, is available at:


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