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Office Hours: Week in Review

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office hoursNew Latino Decisions Analysis: California Story Shows Complete Life Cycle of Anti-Immigrant Wedge Strategy, Cautionary Tale for National GOP 

On today’s immigration reform “Office Hours” press call, immigration reform leaders and pollsters discuss the intertwined political and anti immigrant history of California’s Republican Party that has lead to the party’s demise in the state and how this should be a cautionary tale for the national GOP.

Moderated by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, today’s call featured Gary Segura, Latino Decisions Principal and Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies at Stanford University; and Angélica Salas, Board Chair of CHIRLA Action Fund.

In their new analysis “Anti-immigrant Politics and Lessons for the GOP from California” Latino Decisions explains the effect of the anti-immigrant measures like Prop. 187 on naturalized and Latino voter behavior in California in the 1990’s.  These measures were supported and championed by then Governor Pete Wilson and resulted in a backlash from the Latino community. That combined with a growing Latino electorate changed California from a safe red state to a blue state that delivered 60% of the vote to President Obama in 2012.

Gary Segura, Latino Decisions Principal and Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies at Stanford University said:

California Republicans have blazed a trail to irrelevance that the national party seems intent on following.  The demographic transitions in California turned a previously competitive –and leaning Red–state into dark blue.  Party leaders in the House should take note.

The national and state wide political consequences of the wave of anti-immigrant policies in California are crystal clear.  After the 1994 elections, California’s congressional delegation consisted of 27 House Democrats and 25 House Republicans, along with two Democratic Senators.  After the 2012 elections, the state’s congressional delegation consisted of 38 House Democrats and only 15 House Republicans, along with two Democratic Senators.  In 1994, the state legislature was divided by 60 Democrats to 58 Republicans, and in 2012, the polarization in the Assembly and state Senate grew to a combined 80 Democrats versus just 36 Republicans. As political pundit Charlie Cook recently wrote, before Prop 187 in 1994 “the GOP carried California in nine of 12 post-World War II presidential elections. Since Prop 187, Republican presidential candidates have lost California in all five elections.”  Cook also highlighted that in “16 California races for the U.S. Senate pre-Prop 187, Republicans and Democrats each won eight times. Since 1994, Republicans have lost six Senate elections in a row.”  Similarly, the Republican strength in gubernatorial and lieutenant governor races prior to 1994 have been reversed, with Democrats now having a stronghold on statewide elections.

As Latino Decisions outlined, states like Arizona, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina are already facing similar circumstances as California twenty years ago, and the electoral consequences for the GOP could be devastating.  Republicans need to act on immigration and make inroads with Latinos, or else the GOP will follow the fate of California and be on life support in the near future.

Said Angélica Salas, Board Chair of CHIRLA Action Fund:

California Republicans and Democrats are leaders in Congress and they must act like it.  Much of the political landscape in the Golden State is changing and a growing number of voters are casting their ballot for leaders, not party loyalists.  Immigration reform is of concern to the large majority of Americans and reasonable solutions are at hand, but politics are getting in the way of progress.  Republicans must decide if they are to be a party of have-beens or will-bes.  We will not tolerate lack of progress on immigration reform now that we have gotten so close.  It’s too important to our families, communities, and economic progress.

During August recess, America’s Voice tracked the Republican Members of Congress who are on the record supporting a path to citizenship.  So far, 4 out of the 26 Republicans in our list – Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Jeff Denham, Rep. David Valadao and Rep. Devin Nunes are Republicans from California.  However this is only a quarter of the state’s Republican members, leaving key figures like House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy articulating vague positions, largely silent, or on the opposite side of the spectrum.  McCarthy more than anyone should understand that how his Party handles this one issue in Congress will have lasting effects—positive or negative—on the national GOP.

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

What’s happening in California is that we’re seeing a decisive set of policy moves towards the legalization of undocumented immigrants and away from the criminalization.  Granting drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants is a huge victory.  We are expecting and hoping for another one when Governor Jerry Brown signs the TRUST Act into law.  This follows the political transformation of California, from a state that used to regularly elect Republican governors to one of the bluest states in the nation.  We urge the House GOP to take notice.  As California’s state Republican Party has learned, when you become branded as the anti-Latino and anti-immigrant party in a political entity that is experiencing demographic shifts, you cease to be competitive.  The Republican leadership in Congress has a chance to begin to regain its competitiveness with Latino, Asian and immigrant voters, but only if they share credit for enacting reform with an inclusive path to legal status and an eventual path to citizenship.