On the last day before summer recess, House Republicans failed to address the humanitarian crisis at the border and the broken immigration system, which triggered it. Instead, the bill they support, just a few months before the midterm election, is a signal that the GOP has turned its back on Latino voters. A projected analysis of the Latino vote in the upcoming mid-term Congressional races by Latino Decisions shows how this shortsighted strategy will prove costly to the GOP in 2014 and 2016. When asked which party is to blame for the lack of immigration reform Latinos say Republicans by a 3-to-1 margin. With an opportunity to actually address our broken immigration system, House Republicans instead opted to increase a military presence on the border and make it easier to deport immigrant children. Is this what GOP leader Reince Preibus called for in renewed Hispanic outreach?
In early July, President Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion dollars in emergency appropriations to address the present immigration crisis brought about by the 57,000 unaccompanied minors who have been apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year. In response, House Republicans put together a proposal for $694 million in emergency appropriations, signaled their support sending National Guard troops to the border, and attempted to dismantle Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from 2012. In order to win over the most conservative Republicans the House favored a plan to cancel and block any renewal of DACA.
The push to dismantle DACA will significantly alienate Latino voters according to recent surveys carried out by Latino Decisions. President Obama’s 2012 administrative order on DACA, which provided temporary relief to more than 550,000 undocumented young people was overwhelming supported by Latino voters. In our June 2014 poll with the Center for American Progress, 84% of Latinos said they would be more enthusiastic toward the Democratic Party if DACA was renewed by President Obama in 2014. This high level of enthusiasm cuts across all segments of the Latino electorate.
On election day 2012 a Latino Decisions poll found that 58% of Latino voters said DACA made them more enthusiastic about Obama, only 6% said less enthusiastic. The same poll also asked about Romney’s position to cancel DACA and 57% of Latino voters said it made them less enthusiastic about the GOP nominee. DACA was a defining issue in 2012 for Latino voters and it continues to be a policy of utmost support. If Republicans wish to woo Latino voters, ending DACA is a severely misguided strategy as history proves. Back in 2013 the GOP already voted to defund DACA and in a July 2013 survey, we asked how favorable or unfavorable Latinos would feel toward the Republican Party if House Republicans voted to cancel all funding for the DACA program. In this survey, 75% of Latinos said they would be less favorable toward the GOP than they already were. Favorability also dropped significantly among likely GOP supporters: Evangelicals by 75%, political Independents by 73% and among Latinos who had previously voted Republican by 66%.
Political inaction and paralysis is hurting Republicans among Latino voters. In a previous survey, Latinos were asked which Party they would blame if Comprehensive Immigration Reform is not passed. Over two-thirds (69%) said they would blame the Republican Party. Democrats were blamed by 13% and 11% blamed both parties. Many Republican congressional representatives have stated that before the status of undocumented immigrants is addressed, the country must first secure its borders and wait for legal status only after the border is deemed secure. Indeed in the current House GOP border bill there is an emphasis on border security and deportation first and foremost. Latino voters reject this position as well. We asked Latinos if they supported a border enforcement-first policy or a policy that simultaneously secures the border and provides a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants residing in the country. Our survey clearly shows overwhelming support (81%) for a policy that emphasizes border security and a pathway to citizenship. Only 13% support the Republican policy of securing the border first. A clear take away for the Republican Party is that these policies are pushing them further and further away from Latino voters. Two-thirds of Latino voters think the Republican Party does not respect Latinos, and only 30% of Latinos think the Republican Party “cares about people like me”
These and other surveys carried out by Latino Decisions show that when it comes to immigration – a top policy priority – Latinos and the Republican Party are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Republicans’ failure to compromise on this issue, as evidenced by the recent failure to address the humanitarian crisis at the border is a signal that the GOP has turned its back on Latino voters. The present GOP path will prove to be a costly mistake, as they are bound to lose the Latino vote in the 2014 midterm election and beyond.
Dr. Adrian Pantoja is a Senior Analyst at Latino Decisions. He also is also Professor in Political Studies at Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges in southern California where he has published numerous academic research articles on how the immigration issue effects Latino voting patterns.