Monday, November 12, 2012

Immigration reform: Can the GOP really win Hispanic votes with a flip-flop?

Republicans are beginning to craft legislation around an idea that seemed laughable before last week?s election: immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Critics say the gambit may not work.

By Patrik Jonsson,?Staff writer / November 12, 2012

Aida Castillo places a sticker on her blouse indicating that she had voted during the early voting period, Oct. 20, in Las Vegas. In the heavily-Hispanic neighborhoods of Las Vegas, unemployment is high and home values are down.

Julie Jacobson/AP


Before Republicans tackle wholeheartedly any comprehensive immigration reform, many lawmakers will probably have to be convinced of one thing: Will it actually win them Hispanic votes?

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More than 70 percent of Hispanic voters chose President Obama last week, confirming his preelection prediction that Republicans couldn?t win the presidency with xenophobic zeal that alienates Hispanics or with out-of-touch proposals such as Mitt Romney?s suggestion that illegal immigrants opt for ?self-deportation.?

Since Election Day, much has been said about a need for the GOP to build new demographic coalitions. And so Republican lawmakers are now beginning to draft the outlines of immigration reform. That outline could become the first significant piece of border legislation since the failure in 2006 of a Bush-sponsored package.

On Sunday on NBC?s ?Meet the Press,? Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said that the Senate has already reopened bipartisan negotiations on immigration reform and key players have already agreed to a ?detailed blueprint? based on the idea that ?most Americans are for legal immigration, but very much against illegal immigration.?

And some Republicans, in addition to Democratic counterparts, are considering reforms that would give illegal immigrants a defined path to citizenship. If the Department of Homeland Security can manage to secure the borders to lawmakers? satisfaction, illegal immigrants could ?come out of the shadows, get biometrically identified, start paying taxes, [and] pay a fine for the law they broke,? Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina said on CBS?s ?Face the Nation? on Sunday.

Senator Graham continued, ?They can?t stay unless they learn our language, and they have to get in the back of the line before they can become citizens. They can?t cut in front of the line regarding people who are doing it right, and it can take over a decade to get their green card.?

But even with a GOP-sanctioned immigration reform, more Hispanics would not necessarily vote Republican. J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department voting rights attorney, has argued forcefully that compromising on immigration may seem logical, and may even be the right thing to do, but is not likely to lead to any broad shifts in the Hispanic vote.


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