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New Report: “2016 Republicans and Immigration – What They Say, What They Mean, & Why it Matters”

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On a press call today, America’s Voice released its new report on the 2016 Republican presidential field and immigration, “What They Say, What They Mean, & Why it Matters.”  The report, and detailed recaps of individual candidates’ immigration positioning, are available at the new America’s Voice 2016 site: http://AmericasVoice.org/2016

On immigration, most of the Republican presidential candidates seem to share a basic talking point: “secure the border first” while opposing “amnesty” and President Obama’s executive action programs.  That leaves essential immigration questions about policies for the undocumented open to interpretation.  In the new report, America’s Voice decodes some of the more popular—though vacuous—GOP soundbites; outlines key questions every Republican candidate should be required to ask clearly; and reviews the role our country’s changing demographics will play in deciding who ultimately ascends to the presidency in 2016.  In particular, the memo explores three of the essential immigration issues to understand in following the Republican presidential field:

  • Why “Secure the Border First” is a Vacuous Excuse for Inaction:This phrase, popular throughout the GOP field, is a political soundbite that has nothing to do with the real state of border security, but is used as an excuse to avoid broader immigration reforms.
  • The Heart of the Debate: What is Your Plan for 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants?Most in the GOP field are refusing to provide specifics on this question, preferring to punt to the aforementioned “border first” language and railing against “amnesty” and executive action, without clearly laying out what they would do to address the status of millions of immigrants rooted in America.
  • Why You Can’t Be “Pro-Immigrant” and Support Ending DACA/DAPA and Executive Action Programs: While the candidates are universal in opposition to executive action, some think they can soften this opposition with vague promises to pass a permanent legislative fix.  But voters will not be fooled.  Candidates who pledge to end DACA and DAPA ignore the close ties between many Latino voters and undocumented immigrants and will face harsh questions on their specific plans as the election cycle unfolds.

For each of the above topics, America’s Voice presents a series of key and specific follow-up questions that GOP contenders should be asked and made to answer as they audition for the most powerful position in the world.

As Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said on today’s call, “As has been the case in the last three presidential elections, the issue of immigration and its power to mobilize Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters – the fastest growing groups of voters in America – will play a huge role in determining the outcome in 2016. As Mitt Romney and John McCain found out the hard way, running to the right in the primary while backpedaling to the middle in the general is a prescription for losing. And candidates who try to hide behind vacuous soundbites such as ‘secure the border first’ and ‘no amnesty’ will be exposed as having no realistic solution to a problem three quarters of the American people are ready to solve with a comprehensive approach that combines smart enforcement, legal immigration reforms and a path to legal status and eventual citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in America. Voters deserve to know where their next President stands on the key issues of the day, and what specific policies will be pursued to solve them.”

Added Gary Segura, Co-Founder of Latino Decisions, “If the next Republican Presidential nominee receives the same percentage of the vote within each racial and ethnic group as George W Bush received in 2004—which is the only presidential election popular vote won by GOP presidential candidates in the last quarter century–they will lose.  In order for the GOP to succeed at the Presidential level, they’re going to have to enlarge their footprint.  In 2012, the RNC released a report that endorsed immigration reform, but since then, Republicans in Congress have blocked comprehensive immigration reform and voted multiple times to defund DACA and now the President’s recent executive actions on immigration.  In 2012, Mitt Romney won the vast majority of white voters but still lost the general election.  Heading into 2016, the demographic hole that the GOP must get themselves out of has only gotten deeper.”

“The Center for American Progress’ election simulation analysis shows that in order to be competitive in national elections, it has only become more important for the GOP to make inroads with voters of color,” said Lizet Ocampo, Associate Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. “As voters of color become a larger share of the electorate, with their interests encompassing the issue of immigration and many other topics, the path to victory will necessitate a higher level of support among minority voters than in past elections – no presidential candidate will be able to ignore the reality of our diversifying electorate in 2016 and beyond.”