warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Top Three Reasons Immigration Reform Is Not A Winner For The GOP

Christian Patterson |
January 30, 2013 | 9:06 p.m. PST


Immigration reform may not be a big winner for the GOP. (Creative Commons, Anuska Sampedro)
Immigration reform may not be a big winner for the GOP. (Creative Commons, Anuska Sampedro)
The immigration reform proposal agreed upon by the Senate’s “Gang of 8” delivered a sense of relief to more “moderate” members of the Republican Party. Last year's presidential election convinced them that the GOP has a “Latino” problem and that a “path to citizenship” and moderation of anti-Latino rhetoric was the only remedy. Republicans from Charles Krauthammer to Sean Hannity voiced their support for a Republican plan on immigration, and last week they finally got it.

However, they should take heed before they count this arrangement as a victory. Even if comprehensive reform does pass as proposed, the link between immigration overhaul and Republicans winning the majority of the Latino vote is a pretty tenuous one. Below are the top three reasons why immigration reform will not prove the silver bullet to the GOP's demographic woes.

3. Any package that passes both houses of Congress will be perceived as a win for Democrats.

This one seems counter-intuitive, given that Senator John McCain fought valiantly for immigration reform in 2005 (before he went rougue in 2010), and that Marco Rubio is perceived as the member of Congress most interested in reform. As a strange as it may seem, the framing of this issue is a self-inflicted wound.

Conservatives are the hold-ups on pushing reform forward. In the House, many Tea Party Republicans have already voiced their opposition to what they describe as “blanket amnesty.” Rush Limbaugh and his cadre of talk radio hosts have already panned the bipartisan efforts. Even less radical members of the Senate, like Vitter, have attacked the proposal.

Given the make-up of Congress, immigration reform can pass despite having very little Republican support. But the image of President Obama and Democrats desperately fighting to secure the few necessary Republican votes will definitely not do much for the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino image of today’s GOP.

2. Latino’s don’t actually side with the GOP on “the important issues.”

We’ve all heard the oft-repeated phrase that Latinos are socially conservative and align with Republicans on most core issues. The problem with that piece of knowledge is that it couldn’t be further from the truth. On almost every important issue in the 2012 election, Latinos overwhelmingly sided with Democrats.

On the issue of the national debt: 42 percent preferred a more balanced approach to deficit reduction with higher taxes and spending cuts and 35 percent wanted fairer taxes on the wealthy, while only 12 percent favored the Republican position of only spending cuts. On the issue of healthcare: 61 percent of Latinos wanted Obamacare left in place. On the issue of immigration: almost 60 percent said that passing immigration reform would not make them more likely to vote for Republicans.

Proponents of the “Latinos are conservative” myth are probably citing the common knowledge that Latinos are more conservative when it comes to same-sex marriage and abortion. However, like most pieces of common knowledge, this belief is based in a reality that no longer exists. Fifty-nine percent of Latinos want their state to recognize same-sex marriage, and 66 percent want abortion to remain legal.

1. The Latino population is not a monolithic entity.

I’m not entirely sure where the notion that all Latino voters care equally about the exact same issue came from, but even as a non-Latino, I find it pretty offensive.

It is true that ethnicity is one of the most accurate indicators of voting preference. But with no other race do we take that calculus as far as we do with Latinos. People have different backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences that color their ideologies and voting preferences.

I applaud members of the Republican Party who want to stop their fellow Republicans from extolling the values of electric fences and from shouting Latino delegates off the convention floor. But winning votes is about a lot more than offering token gestures and just not being offensive.

I’m sure that when the GOP starts speaking a language that resonates with the entire American people, the Latino votes will come to them, along with those of the rest of the country.


Reach Columnist Christian Patterson here; follow him here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.