Latino Polling and Politics Experts Agree, Remaining GOP Contenders Are Destroying Potential Competitiveness with Latino Voters
Romney's comments sit right at home with the GOP field, which has continued to stick to a strategy of tacking to the hard right on immigration throughout the primary season. However, as speakers discussed today, findings from an updated America's Voice report suggest that this strategy only serves to threaten the GOP's chances in the general election.
Eliseo Medina, International Secretary Treasurer of SEIU, assessed the current state of play regarding the immigration debate, Latino voters, and the 2012 presidential race. "It’s not looking good for anti-immigrant Mitt here. Latino voters are paying attention to how Republicans talk about them, and their rejection of sensible programs like the DREAM Act are not playing well with the community. Republicans think if they don’t appear in Hispanic media or at Hispanic venues Latinos won’t know what they’re up to—well, guess what? We speak English too. They can run but they can’t hide."
Supporting the DREAM Act means everything to the Latino community. According to Lorella Praeli, Member of the National Coordinating Committee for United We Dream, "For our communities, the DREAM Act has been a litmus test of whether a policy maker stands with us or against us. We’ve never heard a candidate for president say they’d veto the DREAM Act and we won’t stand for it now. Candidates should remember that language matters, and our communities are listening, and that we as DREAMers will make sure that our families and friends know where these candidates and policy makers stand."
As the polls show, taking a hardline stance on immigration--and the DREAM Act in particular--will hurt GOP candidates with Latino voters, and is unpopular with the general electorate as well. Polling from impreMedia and Latino Decisions in February 2011 shows that 58% of all voters support the DREAM Act. In addition, 84% of Latino voters continue to overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act.
Latino polling expert Matt Barreto, Political Science Professor at University of Washington and Principal at Latino Decisions, furthered this research by saying, "Poll after poll shows that a clear majority of the American public, and over 80% of Latino voters, support passage of the DREAM Act. Governor Romney's veto comments put him at great risk of alienating Latino voters and Independent voters nationwide."
According to David Damore, Professor of Political Science at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, Latinos have been playing a critical role in elections throughout his battleground state of Nevada. "As the 2010 U.S. Senate election in Nevada between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle demonstrated, the Latino vote and issues such as the DREAM Act can make the difference in America’s new swing region. As a consequence, Mitt Romney is likely to rue the day he promised to veto the DREAM Act as without even lifting a finger, President Obama’s 2012 prospects for winning not just Nevada, but also Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico improved."
As the updated America's Voice report shows, the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies have been echoed by others in the GOP field. Rick Santorum made yet another attempt to appeal to the far right on immigration by calling himself “a Steve King guy on immigration,” modeling himself after one of the most xenophobic and extreme congressional voices on immigration. Additionally, fellow GOP contender Ron Paul supports repealing birthright citizenship and voted against the DREAM Act in 2010. Paul also revealed that his opposition to “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants has a distinctly political element and stems from not wanting them to become voters: at an August debate, Paul said, “I don’t think that we should give amnesty and they become voters.”
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said, "Romney's commitment to veto the DREAM Act not only slams the door on opportunity for young immigrants who are Americans in all but paperwork, but further slams the door on his ability to win the Latino vote. This is the most radical position a candidate can take, and for Latinos that are interested in the future of their communities, it is unacceptable to vote for someone that stands in the way of the aspirations and ambitions of young people who have done everything asked of them to contribute to the only country they know and love."