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New Poll: When it Comes to Latino Voters and Immigration Reform, GOP Cost Benefit Analysis is Clear

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In anticipation of the debate next week on the Senate floor, Latino Decisions and America’s Voice released the latest in a series of polls that underscore the political imperative of passing immigration reform. This latest poll shows that Democrats and Republicans have a lot to gain and a lot to lose depending on how they handle themselves in the immigration debate.

Matt Barreto, Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Washington and Principal, Latino Decisions said:

Through this poll, Latino voters are telling the U.S. Congress that a border security first approach is a bad idea.  Any attempt to make the path to citizenship contingent on politicians stamp of approval on border security will only alienate Latino voters.  The data from this poll make clear that Latino voters are evaluating both parties through the lens of immigration reform, and they are paying very close attention to the current debate.

Immigration is the top issue facing the Latino community that these voters want addressed, beating out jobs/the economy for the second time in the last two polls. In the February Latino voter poll, 75% said they are following the immigration debate in the news. In this latest poll, this rose to 80%.

Evelyn Rivera, National Coordinating Committee Southeast Region, United We DREAM said:

My senior year of high school was bittersweet, celebrating the accomplishment of my graduation but without my mom there to celebrate with me… she was detained for driving without a driver’s licenses two months before my graduation.  She was deported back to Colombia and I haven’t seen her in over six years.  As a sister, daughter, and American, I don’t want any other family to go through what my family faced.  DREAMers and Latino voters here in Florida and across the country are watching Senator Rubio and expecting him to lead, not to water down the bill or threaten to walk away.  That’s what our community is demanding and we won’t settle for anything else.

Immigration is a personal issue for Latino voters.  Two-thirds of Latino voters have a close relationship with someone who is undocumented,including over 1 in 3 who have a family member who is in the U.S. without papers.

Said Clarissa Martinez, Director, Immigration and National Campaigns, National Council of La Raza:

Immigration is a galvanizing and deeply personal issue for the nation’s Hispanics.  It matters not only to voters today, but it stands to shape the views of the nearly 900,000 Latino citizens who will turn 18 each year between now and 2028. As the debate advances, it will create a clear roadmap for Latino voters, showing who is working toward fair and workable solutions and who is standing for a status quo that undermines the best social and economic interests of country, and the lives of Latinos acutely.

Among some more of the poll’s highlights:

  • Majority of Latino voters want Congress to address border security and path to citizenship together, including voters in play for the GOP. When asked whether or not Congress “should focus only on border security first” or “address both a path to citizenship and border security together,” 81% said both.  In fact, 76% of Latino voters who have voted GOP at some point in their lives—in other words, the group that is clearly in play for the GOP—said both enforcement and citizenship should happen at the same time.  Only 13% of Latino voters agreed with the border security first approach favored by some members of Congress.

Additionally, a majority of respondents (84%) support a comprehensive reform bill that would increase border enforcement, employment verification and provide a pathway to citizens, as long as they pass background checks, study English and pay a fine.

  • If immigration reform doesn’t pass this year, the Republican Party has the most to lose.  A sweeping majority (87%) would blame them in whole (39%) or in part (48%).  With their Latino numbers already approaching bottom, the GOP cannot afford to go through another election cycle with this issue hanging out there.
  • The GOP can get a higher approval rating by acting to pass immigration reform. When Latino voters were asked if they approve or disapprove of the job Republicans in Congress are currently doing handling immigration policy, only 26% of respondents approved. However, when told that 3 Republican Senators joined with Democrats to vote in favor of the comprehensive immigration reform bill, which now goes to the full Senate for debate and vote – that number rose to 53%, a 27% jump from the previous question.
  • If reform does pass this year, the Republican Party has much to gain.  Fifty percent of Latino voters said they have voted Republican at some point in their lives, and 45% say that they would be more likely to vote Republican if the GOP takes a leadership role in passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

We are optimistic that immigration reform is going to pass this year.  The fundamentals are strong.  The general public strongly supports reform.  As this poll shows, Latino voters are watching closely and care deeply.  And with respect to Latino voters, both parties want to deliver: Democrats want to deliver on their promises and Republicans want to rehabilitate their badly damaged brand.  The GOP, in particular, is facing a moment of truth: it either modernizes and becomes electorally competitive with Latino voters, or it stays stuck in a status quo that is anchored in a whites-only strategy.  Let’s hope, for the good of immigration reform, the country and the Republican Party, that they make the right choice.