Immigration Legislation or Executive Action Will Shape Latino Vote

Last summer, in the wake of the US Senate’s passage of S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” Latino Decisions, in concert with America’s Voice, identified three tiers of Democratically and Republican held competitive House districts where Latino voters are sufficiently concentrated to be influential in 2014. Our analysis suggests that there are enough competitive districts presently held by both parties where Latino voters, and by extension, the politics of immigration reform, could determine the outcome and potentially majority control of the House.

This analysis was then followed by a survey of Latino voters – including sub-samples of respondents with a history of voting in midterm elections and those whose participation to date has been limited to presidential elections (“Presidential Surge Voters”) – residing in the 24 tier one and tier two Republican held districts assessing the degree to which immigration reform would affect their decision to vote in 2014 and for which party. Some of the survey highlights:

1. Latino voters supported the Senate Bill. Over three-quarters of Midterm and Presidential Surge Voters support or strongly support legislation akin to S. 744 that increases border security, enforces existing immigration laws, requires employee verification, and provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

CIR Approval

2. Pathway to citizenship is key to immigration reform. 78% of Midterm and 60% of Presidential Surge Voters responded that they would either somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of the Republican Party if immigration reform passes but does not include a pathway to citizenship.

No citizenship approval

3. Blocking CIR hurts Republicans with Latino voters. Both sets of voters responded overwhelmingly (63%) that they would view House Republicans somewhat or much less favorably if House Republicans block immigration reform.

CIR blocked

4. Executive action would boost Democrats. 67% of both sets of voters responded that they would view President Obama and the Democrats much more or somewhat more favorably if the President takes executive action to provide legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Executive action

Since then, there has been little indication that House Republicans plan to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform any time soon. Instead, the Republican leadership has chosen to bring to the House floor legislation that is exclusively punitive and that has no chance of becoming law such as “The Enforce Act” (HR 4138) or “The Faithful Execution of the Law Act” (HR 3973); both of which sought to reverse the President’s DACA policy.

More frustrating to immigration advocates and their allies in government are the numerous House Republicans, many representing competitive districts, who have indicated that they support legislation including a pathway to citizenship but have refused to sign on to a discharge petition allowing HR 15 (legislation based on the S. 744) to be brought to the House floor for a vote. Instead of working across party allies and standing up for their constituents to address a pressing public policy, issue that if implemented would help to alleviate the GOP’s dismal standing with Latino voters, these members of Congress have chosen to kowtow to their party’s most virulent anti-immigrant voices.

David Damore is a senior analyst at Latino Decisions, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and a Senior Nonresident Fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program.

Thomas Schaller is political director at Latino Decisions, a political columnist for the Baltimore Sun, and professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.