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In the Face of GOP’s Anti-Immigrant Assault, Latino Voters Standing Up, Fighting Back, and Engaging Politically

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Lynn Tramonte: “Every Attack On Immigrant Families Sends A Clear Message To Latino Voters About The Priorities Of The Republican Party”

Washington, DC – In Congress, the courts, the 2016 campaign trail, and states such as North Carolina, the Republican Party is engaged in a relentless assault on immigrants.  Yet in the face of the Republicans’ attacks, immigrants and their allies are standing up, fighting back, and engaging politically in a fashion that threatens the GOP’s short-term political success and long-term political viability.

In North Carolina yesterday, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed into a law a virulently anti-immigrant bill that will tarnish the state’s reputation.  Capturing the NC law’s potential effects on one family, Huffington Post’s Elise Foley highlights the story of Xochitl Hernandez, an undocumented resident of Raleigh, NC with two U.S.-citizen children with special needs who worries that “the law will make it difficult for her to do things like picking up her kids from school early if the school won’t accept her foreign-issued identification.” (For more information on the North Carolina bill, read this summary from America’s Voice and the editorial in the Charlotte Observer opposing this legislation).

After Gov. McCrory’s signature yesterday signed the law into effect, The Rev. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, and Flavia Jiménez, the Advancement Project Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant Justice, issued a joint statement that put the state’s new law into a future context with decided political overtones: “It’s a shameful law for North Carolina. Still, this is not a race – it’s a marathon.  Immigrant families and our allies will use this as a rallying cry for organizing and political engagement.  At the end of the day, our families will unite with those of goodwill and continue to seek and win justice.  We will not be deterred.”

North Carolina’s embrace of anti-immigrant policies further defines the Republican Party as hostile and unwelcoming to immigrants to Latino voters and others with a personal stake in the immigration debate.  The state and local anti-immigrant push extends well beyond North Carolina.  Witness that some counties in Texas are refusing to issue birth certificates to American-born babies of undocumented immigrants, in a clear violation of the birthright citizenship clause of the U.S. Constitution.  Of course, the GOP’s anti-immigrant brand image is most visibly being defined each day by Donald Trump and the ongoing battle over immigration in the Republican primary.  The GOP’s anti-immigrant wave is not falling on deaf ears.  Instead, Latino voters are engaged and angry – and prepared to exert their clout at the 2016 ballot box.  As Adrian Carrasquillo of Buzzfeed recently reported, “Spanish-language television giants Univision and Telemundo have given GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump more coverage than all of the other major [English language] broadcast networks combined.”

Ahead of the last night’s GOP presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Boulder, thousands of Latino leaders and immigration reform supporters gathered to launch “My Country, My Vote,” an unprecedented 12-month voter registration campaign to mobilize Colorado’s Latino, immigrant, and allied voters.  As Federico Peña, one of the leaders behind My Country, My Vote and a former Mayor of Denver and U.S. Secretary of Energy and Transportation, noted: “We are going to harness the anger and encourage people to register to vote.”

The question remains why the Republican Party remains insistent on its anti-immigrant direction, given that it flies in the face of the Party’s political incentives to make inroads with Latino voters, is unpopular among the general electorate, and divides Republican voters.  A range of Latino polls, including a new AP/Gfk poll, underscores that the GOP is building a wall between the Party and Latino voters and hurting its chances of reaching the Latino vote threshold of 42% – 47% the Party will need to win the popular vote in the 2016 general election.  Meanwhile, a newly-released New York Times/CBS News pollcaptures that a strong majority of the American people, including registered Republican voters, support policies allowing undocumented immigrants to “stay here” via citizenship or legalization measures – notions at odds with the dominant, deportation-focused message coming from the Republican Party.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “Every attack on immigrant families sends a clear message to Latino voters and others who care about the immigration debate: that the Republican Party, both nationally and in potential 2016 battleground states such as Colorado and North Carolina, does not care about you and the loved ones you represent at the polls.  But the community is standing up and fighting back.  We will prove at the ballot box once again that the Republican Party’s message of exclusion is a political loser.  The question is when Republicans will finally get the message?”