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New America’s Voice Report: Will Democrats Embrace the New Politics of Immigration in 2016?

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A new report from America’s Voice assesses the recent history of Democrats and immigration – their evolution on immigration policy and politics – as well as the record and background of Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on the issue.  The report, titled “Will Democrats Embrace the New Politics of Immigration in 2016?”, follows an earlier America’s Voice assessment of the Republican 2016 field and immigration.

While Democratic presidential contenders undoubtedly hope to improve their party’s competitiveness with white voters, they also need to reassemble the coalition that President Obama relied on during his re-election – maintaining a dominant share of the African-American vote, while once again running up the margins among the Latino and Asian-American voters.  While immigration reform is not the number one issue for the vast majority of voters, it is a defining, gateway issue for key groups of this new American electorate.  It is also a point of clear contrast and differentiation between the two major political parties.

As the report notes, recent election cycles showed that depending on how Democrats engage the issue of immigration, they can either motivate more voters to turn out in support for them or leave important numbers of voters under-enthusiastic and at risk of disengaging.  For example, Democrats experienced the benefits of a “lean in” immigration strategy in 2010 and 2012.  But Democrats backtracked during the 2014 midterm election cycle and paid the price with low turnout from Latino voters.  In 2016, maximizing voter turnout among these members of the new American electorate will be crucial to Democrats’ success up and down the ballot.  The report includes detailed analysis on the following topics:

  • The Old Rahm Emanuel & the Old Democratic Thinking on Immigration
  • Lessons from 2012 – Democrats Win By Leaning in to Immigration
  • Lessons from 2014 – Democrats Backtrack on Immigration and Suffer the Consequences
  • 2015/2016 – Will Democrats Embrace the New Politics of Immigration?

To date, the biggest 2016 immigration news on the Democratic side is that Hillary Clinton, after a rocky performance on immigration questions during her book tour, is clearly opting for the “lean in” strategy in regards to immigration and engagement with the new American electorate.  Viewed against the backdrop of Democrats’ checkered history on delivering on their immigration promises, however, Clinton’s words and pro-immigrant signals will have to be matched with an obvious commitment to action and a deep investment in voter contact efforts.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “If the Clinton campaign continues to lean in and embrace the new politics of immigration reform, and if the Democratic Party sufficiently invests in connecting with newly eligible voters, it will help mobilize the largest eligible Latino and Asian-American electorate in history.  While Democrats have the inside track on holding onto the White House, and even have a shot at retaking the Senate, how they handle immigration and how seriously the Party invests in energizing the new American electorate will go a long way to determining whether they take full advantage of the opportunity at hand.”