While the U.S. Senate has already passed a bipartisan bill on comprehensive immigration reform, including offering a path to citizenship for the undocumented, the House of Representatives is balking. Why?
It’s pretty simple. Senators have a statewide constituency, so most of them represent significant populations of Latinos. Most Representatives have white constituencies, so they’re not feeling the heat from the people they represent.
According to the Arizona Republic, more than 70% of GOP Representatives–169 out of 234–were elected in districts where Latinos make up less than 10% of the population. Even in Arizona, which has a large Latino population, almost half of them are represented by just two men–Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, and Ed Pastor, also D-Tucson. The remaining Latinos are spread throughout seven Congressional Districts where they make up from 12 to 22% of voters.
The national GOP leadership is worried about the overall effect on the Republican Party if the House refuses to pass an immigration bill. But the House, unrealistically, is not worried. The members are influenced by conservative groups that think they can win Latino votes without passing the Senate’s bill. Dan Holler, of the Washington-based advocacy group Heritage Action, makes their argument:
It’s conventional wisdom in Washington that Republicans have to support ?amnesty? if they ever want to win a national election again. We don’t see ?amnesty? as a silver bullet to winning Hispanic votes … Talk about jobs, talk about the EPA, talk about ?Obamacare.? We think if they do that, then they can win votes from their constituents, and it doesn’t matter what demographic you slice that into.
That’s almost funny, coming from the right wing where there is no support for a jobs bill, or protection of the environment, or for affordable health care. Exactly what are the positions on these issues that they think are going to attract those votes?
H?ctor Figueroa, an activist with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), offers a different reality– 2/3rds of Latino voters in a union poll said they’ll blame the GOP if reform fails. That translates into lost elections for Republicans at every level. Figueroa says:
It’s going to start to have a tsunami effect.
That assessment gets support from analyses done by political opinion research group, Latino Decisions. A review of all 435 House districts reveals that there are 24 marginally-held Republican districts where the outcome of the next election can be determined or heavily influenced by Latino voters. The Democratic Party needs to gain only 17 of those, assuming it holds the seats it currently occupies, in order to be the majority party in the House. In 14 of those districts, the proportion of Latino voters significantly exceeds the percentage by which the Republican incumbent won last time. In 10 of the districts, Latinos are at or near the percentage by which the Republican won. Two additional factors, often not considered by the GOP, is that the number of these voters is consistently growing–and they are being mobilized.
Latino Decisions released the results of their study on July 9th. But by last week, the group concluded that the message was ‘not received’ by Republicans, noting that a ‘planning kit’ given by leadership to House members–on how to effectively use the August recess in their home districts–makes no mention of immigration reform. Using the results of an even more recent survey, the group issued these warnings to Republican leadership in the House:
1. If Speaker of the House John Boehner doesn’t let immigration legislation move forward, the ‘vast majority’ of Latino voters surveyed in the marginal districts will view the party less favorably.
2. If border security takes precedence over a pathway to citizenship, these voters will see this as a GOP effort to block immigration reform.
3. If the House GOP kills immigration reform and the President uses an executive action to achieve it, he and the Democratic Party will be, by far, the beneficiaries of the situation.
Latino Decisions draws this conclusion from their most recently released survey:
As the data presented here indicate, the present trajectory of immigration reform in the House of Representatives does not bode well for the 24 Republicans representing marginal districts where Latinos can determine outcomes in the 2014 midterm election. Indeed, as the situation presently stands, Democrats in Congress and President Obama enjoy a better than two to one favorability to unfavorability rating among [the voters surveyed].
Bottom line: the message that falls on deaf Republican ears makes sweet music for Democrats.
How long can Republicans in Congress afford to continue ignoring immigration reform and the Latino vote? Featured photo from Americasvoice.org.
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Edited and published by CB