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Defeat of AZ State Senator Russell Pearce Fresh Evidence of Dangers of Wedge Politics

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Hard-Line Approach to Immigration Policy Mobilizes Latinos, Other Americans Also Support Comprehensive Reform

Tuesday’s defeat of notorious anti-immigrant Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (R) by fellow Republican Jerry Lewis in a recall election continues to resonate in Arizona and beyond.  The architect of the state’s notorious “papers, please” immigration law, Pearce’s stunning defeat is a cautionary tale about the political dangers of anti-immigrant extremism and wedge politics.  The 2012 Republican field, however, has yet to take note of these dangers.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Extreme, enforcement-only immigration approaches don’t do a thing to fix the immigration system and, outside of the occasional Republican primary, don’t deliver any political benefits.  As Russell Pearce found out, betting the farm on a hard-line immigration position mobilizes Latino voters who want acceptance and respect, while alienating the rest of the electorate, who want their leaders to focus on bread and butter issues.  On immigration, as well as on other issues, the electorate as a whole wants the same thing Latino voters want – solutions, not demagoguery.”

As proof of this, a stunning new poll was released that shows the vast majority of the Arizona voters, despite the passage of Arizona’s “papers, please” anti-immigrant law in 2010, support a federal and comprehensive immigration fix.  The poll, conducted by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, found that “78 percent of Arizonans would support legislation letting longtime undocumented immigrants become citizens if they also paid a fine, passed criminal background checks, paid taxes and show they can speak English.  The poll found that 89 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans favored giving longtime illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.”

Meanwhile, new nationwide polling of Latino voters released yesterday by Univision News and Latino Decisions offers further insight into how Republican anti-immigrant candidates, including the leading GOP presidential contenders, are wildly missing the mark on immigration.  Among the key findings in the poll include the fact that Obama enjoys a 3-to-1 margin over potential general election Republican contenders, with only 24% of Latino voters supporting Mitt Romney, 22% supporting Herman Cain, and 21% supporting Rick Perry.  Given that analysts project that the eventual Republican nominee will need support from approximately 40% of Latino voters nationwide in order to defeat President Obama, the Republican field’s hard-line approach to immigration thus far is misguided at best and suicidal at worst.  As Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions told ABC News, “If we start with the assumption that the election is going to be closer, then it means that those key subgroups of voters are going to be more influential, and not just in the obvious states like Nevada, Florida, and Colorado, but there are sizable Latino populations in states like Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.