The GOP’s new motto on immigration reform? Yo quiero pander…to all sides of the debate:
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Politico that he’s open to giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship in exchange for a temporary moratorium on all legal immigration while they “assimilate.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a longtime proponent of reform, said legalization should be paired with the repeal of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. And Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters on Friday that he would not commit to including a path to citizenship in his immigration reform efforts…
Juan Hernandez, a Texas-based Republican political consultant who served as Sen. John McCain’s director of Hispanic outreach in 2008, said whatever the potential disagreements, congressmen should start hammering out a deal now.
“Should it be with two, three or four steps? That’s fine. Let’s negotiate. But let’s starting taking the first steps immediately,” Hernandez said. “We may not find a political moment again in which at least I see everyone saying it’s time for immigration reform.”
The cries that demographics equal destiny for an eventual GOP shift to the left on all issues pertaining to immigration reform have been shouted for some time. And in the wake of a narrow popular vote re-election for Barack Obama, carried in part by a 44% margin of victory among Latino voters, the cries have renewed with vigor. Even some in the conservative intelligentsia have backed a 2007-esque immigration reform stance, including Sean Hannity and Charles Krauthammer.
But would backing amnesty, a path to citizenship, however the GOP wishes to define such legislation, really give the GOP any electoral edge? Republicans have gained nothing among African-American voters despite the GOP’s critical role in civil rights legislation. Yet pollsters love to mention Bush’s 44% showing among Latinos in 2004 and equally enjoy pointing out 65% of all voters (including 3 out of 4 Latinos) support some opportunity at citizenship for illegal immigrants. Of course, Bush’s Latino support was greatly inflated and was more likely around 38%. And last, but not least, is the data suggesting that immigration from Latin American countries may be actually reversing.
That last part is critical because Latino attitudes towards immigration reform vary depending on whether they were born here or immigrated. While 42% of all Latino voters called immigration reform their number one issue, only 32% of U.S. born Latinos agreed compared to 54% who were foreign born. Financially stable ($80k+ incomes) Latinos and those who are second generation are less likely to focus on immigration reform or support carte blanche amnesty. Those who called Spanish their first language were far more interested in immigration reform than those who said English was their primary language. The greater integrated recent immigrants had become, the less interested they were in immigration concerns.
Republicans focus on Latinos when speaking about immigration reform ignores a number of other demographic groups who have more at stake in any immigration conversation. Asians are now the largest block of recent immigrants, surpassing Hispanic migration. And as a voting block, Asian-Americans voted by similar margins to Latinos for Obama. Where are the breathless newspaper column inches declaring the GOP must court Asian-Americans?
Republican outreach to minority groups has been a priority mothballed election cycle after election cycle. If an election where nearly 13 million fewer voters showed up prompts the GOP to finally engage demographics they’ve thus far all but ignored, then great. But if Republicans try and out liberal liberals on issues like immigration reform, they will continue to find no real opportunities for political gain.
ADDENDUM: Rachel Campos-Duffy at National Review hits the nail on the head of the broader challengers standing between Republicans and Latino voters:
Hispanics come to America for the American Dream. They are “trabajadores,” and you would be hard pressed to find an American farmer, contractor, or restaurant owner who would not testify to their work ethic. Unfortunately, the communities in which they live and work are teeming with liberal activists: farm and service-industry labor unions, well-intentioned community-based social services providers and more radical and racially motivated Latino groups such as La Raza, LULAC, and Mecha. In addition, the curricula their kids encounter in public schools are either hostile or silent on the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and ideas that are the foundation of conservative thinking. All of these activist groups and institutions have a common ideology and an affinity for big and centralized government, and of course, entitlements. They go out of their way to sign folks up and to begin the cycle of government dependency. Once hooked to the IV of government handouts, a steady drip of ideology, and a heavy dose of raunchy pop culture, the once vibrant American Dreams and traditional family values of Hispanics drift into a slow, deep coma.