How immigration reform could hurt Republicans

February 5, 2013

Republicans are anxious to get something done on immigration reform in light of their growing electoral slippage among Latino voters.


But even if doing comprehensive reform helps repair the GOP's image with the Hispanic community and increases its share of the Hispanic vote, one thing has gotten lost in all of this: The GOP would potentially be helping to give millions more Democratic-leaning Latinos the right to vote.

A Pew Hispanic Center study last year showed there were 24 million eligible Hispanic voters in the United States and about 16 million Hispanic kids who will be eligible to vote when they turn 18. That means 40 million eligible Hispanic voters by 2030.

But if there is some kind of a path to citizenship in the immigration bill -- as is expected -- that pool will grow even larger. Just how large, of course, depends on how quickly and easily illegal immigrants and legal permanent residents could attain citizenship -- something that will be a significant issue in the ongoing discussions in Congress.

Pew estimated last year that there are 5.4 million adult legal permanent residents and 7.1 million adult illegal immigrants in the United States, which makes them about half as big as the current voting-eligible population.

These voters are more Democratic than Republican, though not as clearly left-leaning as current registered Hispanic voters.

Pew's polling in October showed 70 percent of registered Hispanic voters identify or lean toward Democrats, while 22 percent favor the GOP -- a 48-point Democratic advantage.

Among non-citizens without legal permanent residency (a close approximation for illegal immigrants), the same study showed 54 percent favor Democrats, while 19 percent favor the GOP -- a 35-point gap. Another 15 percent say they are purely independent while the rest were unsure of their political leanings. (Worth noting: This sample was a small one -- 247 people -- so there is an 8 percent margin of error.)

If you extrapolate those numbers over the entire illegal immigrant population, it means 3.8 million favor Democrats while just 1.3 million favor the GOP. And if you add in the legal permanent residents who might become citizens, Democrats could gain even more voters.


Not all of these voters, of course, will attain citizenship and begin voting immediately or even in the very near future, so it's not like the GOP will suddenly be dealing with a much bigger universe of Democratic-leaning Latino voters.

It's also worth noting, as a new Pew study shows, that many legal permanent residents don't take the next step to become citizens for a whole variety of reasons, including language, financial barriers and the lack of a desire to attain citizenship. And new immigration legislation could make it much easier and more attractive to become a legal resident rather than a citizen.

But comprehensive immigration reform would almost definitely mean that a significant number of voters that are, initially at least, friendly to Democrats will start being added to the rolls in the years to come. Which means that even if Republicans can win a higher percentage of the Latino vote, Democrats would still benefit from the expanded pool of Latino voters.

For Republicans, it's a very difficult set of circumstances. They feel the need to do something on immigration in order to stop their hemorrhaging among Latino voters, but it's unlikely that doing so will immediately reverse their fortunes with Latinos. And if Latinos continue to vote heavily Democratic, Republicans might only be helping to give the other party more voters to win.

Menendez blames busy schedule and 'smears': Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Monday made his first extended comments since it was revealed that he paid for two previously undisclosed trips made by a campaign donor who is under investigation. And he's taking a defiant tone.

Menendez insisted he did what was right in paying for two trips the donor provided more than two years late, after the media reported the unpaid and un-disclosed trips. Menendez said it was merely an oversight.

"I was in a big travel schedule in 2010," he said Monday in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash. "I was the chair of the DSCC plus my own campaign getting ready for a reelection cycle. And in the process of all of that, it unfortunately fell through the cracks that our processes didn't catch moving forward and making sure that we paid.

"When it came to my attention that payment had not taken place, I personally paid for them in order to meet my obligations."

He added that allegations of engaging in prostitution on the trips are part of a right-wing smear campaign and that they are "totally unsubstantiated."

Fixbits:

Is Obama backing off the assault weapons ban?

Obama will meet with labor and business leaders Tuesday to talk about immigration.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says it's still possible the GOP will filibuster Chuck Hagel's nomination for Defense Secretary.

Ron Paul tweets about the Navy Seal who was gunned down at a shooting range this weekend: "Chris Kyle’s death seems to confirm that ‘he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.’ Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn’t make sense.” The tweet drew heavy criticism.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is quietly considering a run for president in 2016.

Add Paul Ryan to the list of Republicans who don't like the party's effort to change how some states award electoral votes.

Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone (D) won't run in the special Senate election in Massachusetts.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R) won't run for the open Senate seat in Georgia.

Rep. Tom Latham (R) confirms he's interested in running for another open seat in Iowa and says Rep. Steve King's (R) likely entry wouldn't dissuade him from running.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) raised $336,000 in the fourth quarter and has nearly $1 million in the bank for his 2014 campaign.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) lone Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, has qualified for matching funds.

Must-reads:

"Gerrymandering is not what’s wrong with American politics" -- John Sides, Washington Post

"Obama takes gun control push to law enforcement, American people" -- Philip Rucker, Washington Post

"Eric Cantor Wants To Rescue GOP's 'Lost' Message" -- Jon Ward, Huffington Post

"Waiting Times at Ballot Boxes Draw Scrutiny" -- Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times

"Backslapping Barrow Faces Big Senate Choice" -- Joshua Miller, Roll Call

Scott Clement contributed to this report.
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics
Next Story
Sean Sullivan · February 4, 2013