tags: Press Releases

The New Politics of Immigration on Display

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Democratic Moderates Advocate Common Sense Immigration Reform, While Extremists Seem Intent on Driving the GOP Into the Political Wilderness

As Rahm Emanuel told a group of Latino journalists earlier this year: “The arrow is pointing in a different direction in relation to immigration politics in this country.”  Recent statements from key Senate moderates illustrate Emanuel’s case precisely, while leaders from the Minutemen continue their campaign to drive the GOP into a full-throated embrace of nativism. 

On the Democratic side, kudos to newly-appointed Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO).  The new Senator from New York, Gillibrand (D), has traveled the state listening to constituents’ views about the need for comprehensive immigration reform.  This month, she announced her support for the DREAM Act, legislation that would allow immigrant children who have grown up in America but lack immigration papers to go to college and legalize their status: “America is the only home many of [these students] know, yet they are being denied the opportunity to achieve their full potential.  This legislation says that if they work hard and play by the rules, then they will have the opportunity to get a good education and earn their way to legal status.”     

This week, Senator Bennet (D-CO) also expressed strong support for common sense immigration reform.  During a series of town hall meetings, Bennet said that he has spoken with farmers, health care officials, and law enforcement in Colorado who want Congressional action on the issue.  He acknowledged that the politics of immigration reform are still “frail” in Colorado, but his vocal support for reform is a clear sign that pragmatic politicians are rejecting the Tancredo approach to immigration policy.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party continues to be dogged by hard-liners who oppose practical solutions.  Yesterday, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps founder Chris Simcox announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, challenging Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in the 2010 elections.  Simcox is a single-issue candidate who opposes McCain because of his role as a leader in the fight to enact comprehensive immigration reform.  Simcox is not the only Minuteman engaged in electoral politics.  Another Minuteman leader named Rosanna Pulido ran as the Republican nominee in Illinois’ 5th district, to replace Rahm Emanuel, and garnered less than a quarter of the vote in her loss

This result tracks with other results of the 2008 election.  Analysis conducted by America’s Voice showed that in 20 of 22 battleground races where immigration was an issue, the candidate supporting a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform won.  Similarly, candidates who spent significant campaign resources on immigration attack ads were unable to use the issue to their advantage. 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “We are very pleased that two newly-appointed Democrats get that the public wants their leaders to lean into tough problems and forge pragmatic solutions.  At the same time, the Republican Party is going to have to come to grips with the fact that the public’s desire for real solutions means moving away from candidates like Rosanna Pulido and Chris Simcox, and towards leaders like John McCain.  Their viability as a major political party may well depend on it.”

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