Top Republicans are signaling for the first time in five years that the party will get serious about immigration reform.
Immigration’s sudden rise to the top of Washington’s to-do list after years on the legislative back burner spotlights how worried Republicans are about Latinos abandoning their party. The renewed interest in tackling the issue, if sustained, would represent a fundamental shift for Republicans, who allowed conservative firebrands to set the agenda on immigration after several failed attempts to pass a bill during the Bush administration.
“It’s clear to me, if Republicans are going to have the opportunity to be in the majority, we clearly have to determine how we deal with minority and Latino voters,” said Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who is running for the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairmanship. “In some fashion, the way we have dealt with immigration gives us a black eye. And we need to figure out how to talk about issues and pursue policies that matter to Latino, Hispanic voters.”
Obama told the Des Moines Register editorial board last month that he was confident immigration reform would get done next year. He mused at the time that Republicans, after years of Latino alienation, would need to repair their relationship with one of the fastest-growing demographic groups.
Obama is expected to pursue a broad proposal early next year, Democratic officials said Wednesday.
“It’s self-inflicted. It’s almost a suicidal tendency they have to be relegated for the next — I would say — generation as a minority party,” Rep Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said.
The stats from Tuesday’s election tell a grim tale for Republicans.
Exit polls found that Obama picked up 71 percent of the Latino vote while Republican Mitt Romney received only 27 percent — a steep drop-off from Bush’s 44 percent in 2004 and 35 in percent 2000. Those figures were in line with a 75-23 margin in an election eve poll by Latino Decisions of 5,600 Latino voters across all 50 states.
If Romney had picked up even 35 percent of the Latino vote, Tuesday’s election may have turned out differently, said Stanford University professor Gary Segura, who conducted the survey by Latino Decisions, which has done extensive polling of Hispanic voters.
“For the first time in U.S. history, the Latino vote can plausibly claim to be nationally decisive,” Segura said.
Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote Republican if the party took a role in passing an overhaul bill with a pathway to citizenship.
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