The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Marjorie Valbrun,202-463-8602 x305,

Pundits Should Listen to Voters on Immigration

Fallout Over Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Law More Likely to Help Democrats, Hurt GOP


coverage of this week's ruling on the Arizona anti-immigrant law is
re-igniting the debate over comprehensive immigration reform and the
need for a federal solution. But as Washington pundits analyze the
political implications of the judge's decision, they are turning to
outdated thinking instead of real facts from real elections.
Conventional wisdom in Washington has it that the Obama Administration's
lawsuit, and success this week in court, will hurt congressional
Democrats in swing districts and help Republicans mobilize their base.
Once again, these experts prove that they have a superficial
understanding of the politics of immigration.

to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice, "The Arizona
law and Wednesday's ruling only heightens the public's desire for a
federal immigration solution. While polls show the Arizona law is
popular with voters, these same surveys show comprehensive immigration
reform is even more popular. The public is hungry for leaders in
Washington to solve this problem, and they will reward politicians who
cut through the rhetoric to offer real solutions."

Some points to consider about the politics of immigration:

  • Conventional wisdom has consistently been wrong:
    While running on a hard-line immigration stance may work in some
    Republican primaries, it has not proven to be successful in the vast
    majority of general election campaigns. Polling in swing districts and states
    consistently shows that comprehensive immigration reform is supported
    by a majority of voters because it is a practical solution that
    increases the tax base and restores order to the system. In 2006 and 2008, comprehensive reform candidates consistently trounced hard-line candidates in close races. An America's Voice report
    found that in twenty of twenty-two contested congressional races in
    2008, the losers advocated a deportation-only agenda and the winners
    supported more comprehensive policies. According to the late Richard
    Nadler, a GOP activist who studied
    the role of immigration in 2008 House races: "Immigration was a wedge
    issue benefiting the Democratic Party, but not the GOP."
  • The American people have complex views on immigration, and support pragmatic approaches to fixing the problem:
    Voters want the problem of illegal immigration solved and want a
    national solution instead of a state-by state approach. A number of
    recent surveys have shown that while the Arizona immigration law is
    popular, comprehensive immigration reform enjoys even wider support. Bi-partisan nationwide polling
    conducted by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies found
    that 60% of voters support the Arizona law with 23% opposed. This
    support for Arizona's SB1070 reflects people's frustration over
    Washington's failure to act on immigration reform. Even more
    voters--78%--support federal, comprehensive immigration reform.
    Notably, 84% of those who support the Arizona law also support
    comprehensive immigration reform, and by a margin of 60% to 18%, voters
    want the federal government to act instead of letting the states
  • Republicans in Washington have formed a wall of resistance to working on immigration reform, leaving states like Arizona floundering under the weight of a problem that must be solved at the national level. While some Republicans
    are calling on the Obama Administration to "make immigration reform a
    priority" following the judge's decision, the fact is these same
    politicians have done nothing to advance the issue this year, and even refused to work with Democrats
    on a reform proposal this spring. By insisting on "border first"
    proposals as a precondition for engaging on broader reforms, Arizona's
    own Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain are also blocking the only approach
    that they know will work at a time when Arizona and the rest of the
    country desperately needs a solution.
  • Latino voters are re-engaged and energized by immigration:
    While conventional wisdom has it that western Democrats in close races
    have the most to "lose" from the court's ruling, the exact opposite is
    true. Conservative voters were already motivated to turn out and vote
    against Democrats this cycle; it is the Democratic base, including the crucial Latino voter group,
    that needed a reason to show up. In Nevada, Florida, Colorado,
    Arizona, and elsewhere, new polling shows that the fallout over
    Arizona's anti-immigration law is having a mobilizing effect on Latinos,
    and defining the good guys and bad guys in a way that will hurt
    Republicans and help Democrats if sustained through the fall. For
    example, a recent poll
    from LatinoMetrics, co-sponsored by the Hispanic Federation and the
    League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), found that "since the
    end of 2009, immigration has catapulted to the top issue of personal
    concern among 1 in 4 Latinos -tied with jobs & the economy." A poll
    of Latino voters in CA, CO, FL, and TX from Dr. Ricardo Ramirez of the
    University of Southern California, for the National Association of
    Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund (NALEO), similarly
    found that 70% of Latino voters are likely to vote this year and an
    additional 8% said it was possible; over half of them (57%) cited the
    current immigration debate as the reason they are more likely to vote.
    Notably, 54% of the NALEO poll respondents said a candidate or party
    espousing an immigration position they disagreed with would be less
    likely to vote for that candidate, even if they agreed with most of that
    candidate or party's positions on other issues. According to Arturo Vargas, NALEO's Executive Director, "Latinos are feeling less optimistic and more under siege."

the Republican Party's continued embrace of its restrictionist wing-the
most visible example being the debate over the Arizona anti-immigration
law-could do very little to win new voters to the GOP, and a lot to
further motivate and alienate the fastest-growing group of new voters in
the nation. Now that's a true read on the politics of immigration in 2010.

America's Voice -- Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform. The mission of America's Voice is to realize the promise of workable and humane comprehensive immigration reform. Our goal is to build the public support and create the political momentum for reforms that will transform a dysfunctional immigration system that does not work into a regulatory system that does.