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Memo to House GOP on Immigration: It’s Not Immigration Reform that’s Facing Death, It’s Your Party

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A new poll of Latino voters from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that Republicans have much to worry about when it comes to the Party’s national prospects and how they address immigration reform.  As a New York Times recap states:

More than 6 in 10 Hispanic respondents said they felt closer to the Democratic Party than they had in the past, while only 3 in 10 said they felt closer to the Republican Party.  When Hispanics were asked to offer descriptions of the parties, 48 percent of the responses about the Republicans were negative associations like ‘intolerant’ and ‘out of touch,’ while 22 percent of the responses for the Democrats were negative.

…Hispanics in the poll said they were far more likely to vote for candidates based on their stances on immigration than on their stance on abortion or gay marriage.  The parties’ handling of immigration has been a major factor swaying Hispanics’ allegiances. In the survey, 42 percent of Hispanics said that Democrats were better able to deal with immigration, while 16 percent said Republicans would do better.

But in a finding that could be tantalizing for both parties, 21 percent of Hispanics polled said neither party is best able to handle immigration, and 17 percent said both parties are equally able to deal with immigration.  About one in five registered Hispanic voters and more than one-third of Hispanic citizens who are not registered to vote said they were independents, suggesting they might be up for grabs between the parties.

As if on cue, Mitt Romney began to own up to his failure to attract Latino votes in the 2012 election – even if his explanation shows he still doesn’t quite grasp how his embrace of self-deportation and advisors who champion this radical idea defined him early in the election.  In an interview with CNN, Romney explains:

The largest strategic error was not investing sufficiently, particularly in Hispanic TV and Hispanic outreach to help Hispanic voters understand that ours is the party of opportunity…I think my position and the position of our party is not well understood at the Hispanic community.  I want to see immigration reform.  I said that during the campaign. I want to make sure we have a legal immigration system that brings, in my view, more people legally to our country.  I’d like to do that.

So, what is the House GOP gonna do?  With a new comprehensive House immigration bill in the works and over 130 pro-reform rallies and events set to attract thousands across the country this weekend, immigration reform is alive and kicking.  Still, some in the Party don’t get it.  An unnamed Republican aide told Politico:  “Why do they keep thinking we can be pressured on immigration?…They live in a fantasy world.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

It is Republicans who oppose immigration reform that are living in a fantasy world.  If the GOP fails to take advantage of the historic opportunity to pass landmark immigration reforms and share the credit for doing so, they will be hastening the demise of the party.  Republican modernizers understand that they have a real opportunity to repair the Party’s badly damaged brand with Latino voters and to rehabilitate their image with other constituencies that make up the changing American electorate.  The bottom line is this: Fail to modernize, fail as a national party.  Even Mitt Romney now understands that.