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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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results from the election are still not entirely settled, but the dust is
beginning to settle and we can begin analyzing the election results and making
predictions about what the future holds. >>


The White

First and foremost, we will have four more years of a pro-immigration
President. We knew that before the first vote was cast because both Senator
McCain and President-Elect Obama have well-established records and said most of
the right things in the campaign.

The specifics of the President-elect's plans on immigration are far from clear,
however. While he presumably signed off on the Democratic Party platform call
for enacting comprehensive immigration reform within the first year of his
Administration, he never referred to a timetable in any of his remarks on


Senate and House Races>>

In the races in the House and the Senate, Democrats had an evening that in a
normal year would be considered excellent, though some of the predictions of
massive pickups in both Houses that were predicted did not happen. The
Democrats will pick up probably a half dozen seats in the Senate and about 20
seats in the House of Representatives. >>


The Democrats did not reach the
magic number of 60 in the Senate that would stop filibusters, but on immigration
issues, that number is not necessarily critical. There are a few
pro-immigration Republicans and anti-immigration Democrats and it's not always
easy to predict how votes will go. Yes, sixty votes can keep a bill moving, but
that sixty will very likely be a combination mostly comprised of Democrats with
a few critical Republican votes. The key is that the Democratic Party is
clearly the more pro-immigration of the two major parties so the increase in
the Democrats' ranks will make it easier to get immigration legislation passed.
Whether the numbers are enough are hard to tell at this point.>>


Ballot measures>>


Immigration was on the ballot in a
few states, though the measures were someone modest in comparison to bills that
have passed in the last couple of years. Here's the quick run down:>>


Missouri overwhelmingly passed a
bill making immigration the state's official language. >>

Arizona failed to pass a referendum
that ratified legislation softening the state's notoriously tough employer
sanctions law. >>

California voters rejected a referendum
that would have barred illegally present immigrants from being able to secure
bonds in criminal cases.>>

Florida voters failed to support a
measure that would have prohibited the state from regulating property ownership
by people ineligible for US citizenship (the measure was designed to address a
1926 law allowing Asians to be barred from property ownership)>>

Oregon voters rejected a referendum
that would have limited to one to two years the amount of time a student can be
taught primarily in a language other than English>>



How the immigration issue played around the country>>


The real immigration story in this
year's election was the lack of immigration as an issue in the election. In
2006, candidates could not get enough of promoting themselves as
get-tough-on-immigration candidates and we saw commercials touting the border fence,
worksite raids, and, of course, no "amnesty". Immigration had ranked as late as
last summer as the number one issue for 12% of the US population and
immigration ranked number two on the list of issues of most importance to
Americans. >>


In November 2008, most Americans
don't think a lot about the subject anymore. Fewer than 1% consider immigration
the most important issue and on the list of most important issues, immigration
now ranks 12th. Some candidates decided to make an issue over
immigration in this race, but no one seemed to care. Even a last minute story
about the illegal status of President-Elect Obama's aunt was barely noticed by
voters. With the exception of Utah Republican Chris Cannon losing his primary
race largely due to his immigration views, there is little evidence that taking
an anti-immigration position significantly helped any candidate this year. >>


The one candidate that made
immigration a major issue didn't succeed in the race. Republican Lou Barletta,
the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania who was responsible for one of the nation's
toughest immigration ordinances, narrowly lost to Democratic incumbent Paul
Kanjorski. >>


The New Republic's James Kirchik
goes further and claims that the GOP's anti-immigration positions seriously
damaged the party:




The Latino Vote

The one group that immigration mattered to was the nation's Latino population. And the vote clearly shows a major problem with the Republican brand with Republicans. 68% of Hispanics surveyed indicated they felt that Republicans don't have a favorable view of immigrants, something that clearly hurt the GOP in several key states.

Congress and the President may be influenced to some extent by the fact that
the Latino American community had a large role in last night's results.
America's Voice crunched
the numbers


  • The Latino Vote Surged in Size: The Latino vote comprised at least 8% of the
    overall electorate, according to exit polling. This works out to
    approximately 10.5 million voters, given the expected
    130 million votes cast. This figure represents a jump of 3 million voters
    since 2004, when 7.6 million Latinos cast ballots, and is almost double
    the Latino turnout of 2000.


  • The Latino Vote Broke Democratic: In 2004, Democratic candidate John Kerry won
    the Latino vote 56-44% against George W. Bush. Yesterday, Barack Obama won
    the Latino vote by a 66-32% margin against John McCain, and even won a
    majority of Latino support in Florida, a former Latino stronghold for the
    GOP.  Given the increased size of the Latino electorate, this means
    that 2.9 million more Latino votes went to the Democratic candidate
    compared to 2004.


  • Barack Obama Swept the "Latino Battleground"
    : Both the Obama
    and McCain campaigns focused their Spanish-speaking advertising and
    outreach on four key battleground states - CO, FL, NM, and NV. Within
    these states, the Latino vote's rapid growth and break towards Democratic candidates
    played an important role in Democratic victories.


    • CO:
      The Latino vote in CO grew from 8% of the state's electorate in 2004 to
      17% in 2008. Obama gained support of 73% of CO Latinos - key to his
      53-46% victory in the state, as well as the Udall Senate victory.

    • FL: The
      Latino vote's shift towards the Democrats was essential in Obama's win.
      FL Latinos broke 56-44% for Bush in 2004 and 57-42% for Obama in 2008.

    • NM:
      Latinos comprised 41% of the NM 2008 electorate - a jump from their 32%
      in 2004.  Latinos in NM supported Obama 69-30% -- a big jump from
      56-44% support for Kerry. NM Latinos' trend towards Democrats played a
      huge role in the Presidential race and in handing the open Senate seat
      and two Congressional races (NM-1 and NM-2) to the Democrats.

    • NV:
      Latinos in NV supported Kerry 60-39% in 2004 and Obama 78-20% in 2008.
      Latinos in NV also increased from 10% of electorate in '04 to 16% in
      2008, and played a key role in handing the NV-3 Congressional seat to the


  • John McCain's Support Among Latinos Was More
    Dole than Bush
    : John
    McCain's received just 32% of Latinos' support nationwide - closer to the
    Republicans' low-water mark of 21% support received by Bob Dole in 1996
    than the high-water mark of 44% received by George W. Bush in 2004.


  • Voters Broadly Rejected Anti-Immigrant
    Candidates and Politics
    Voters defeated leading anti-immigrant crusaders such as Marilyn Musgrave
    (CO-4), Thelma Drake (VA-02), Lou Barletta (running for Rep. Kanjorski's
    seat in PA-11), and possibly Virgil Goode (VA-5) (race too close to call
    at press time), and supported candidates with practical and common sense
    approaches for fixing our nation's broken immigration system like Dina
    Titus (taking Rep. Porter's seat in NV-3), Bill Foster (IL-14), Jim Himes
    (taking Rep. Shays' seat in CT-4), Rep. Giffords (AZ-8), and many
    others.  In the Senate, new pro-reform senators include Mark Warner
    in VA, Jeanne Shaheen in NH, Mark Udall in CO, Kay Hagan in NC, and Tom
    Udall in NM.

Latinos around the country can and should demand action on immigration, an
issue on which they've been extraordinarily patient.

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