Latino voters' relevance in mid-term elections examined

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Latino voters were seen as a highly important electorate in the 2012 elections. During a July 26 webinar and phone call set up by Latino Decisions, it was determined that they will be just as critical in the upcoming 2014 mid-term elections.

Gary M. Segura, Professor of American Politics at Stanford University, analyzed 24 GOP-held House districts where Latino votes might play a large role, and based on poll data of Latinos in those districts, examined how immigration reform will factor into the 2014 vote.

"Where do these Latinos stand on immigration reform?" said Segura. "How do they feel on the debate over it so far? We decided to explore their views, focusing on those who are likely to turn out for the mid-term elections. So far, they oppose what's being discussed in the House concerning immigration policy, but some of them are more open to voting for Republicans, depending on the circumstances."

As part of the analysis, Latino Decisions interviewed 800 voters; of those, 400 were expected to vote in mid-term elections, while the other 400 were called "surge voters" - those who only show up during a presidential election. The survey concluded that Latino voters overall had little interest in the current policies being pursued in the House. 60 percent of mid-term voters and 57 percent of surge voters viewed immigration as the most vital issue the President and Congress must address.

However, Latinos in those districts clearly wanted a better plan than what Republicans have put on the table, which is the KIDS Act - legislation that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte are working on. If House Republicans were to pass that bill, which would provide citizenship only for DREAMers, just 28 percent of midterm voters and 26 percent of surge voters would be more likely to support Republicans. By contrast, 65 and 68 percent, respectively, of mid-term and surge voters, would be less likely to support them.

That's because, while the KIDS Act would provide legalization for many undocumented youth, it would exclude their parents. The implication there is that older undocumented citizens would not be welcome in the U.S. The result would be the tearing apart of families.

"DREAMers," by the way, is the term some young undocumenteds have given themselves, due to the proposed legislation called the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which would legalize high school graduates who lived in the U.S. for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. DREAMers have christened the KIDS Act with the pejorative term "DREAM Act Lite," because unlike the latter, superior legislation, this right-wing-supported bill would not allow immigrants to vote, but would on the other hand make them pay taxes.

It would also tighten existing border security and enforce existing immigration laws (which have been called threatening and unjust); hardly a fair tradeoff, many Latinos feel, for a pathway to citizenship for a select few. Only 30 percent of Latino voters in those districts would, in fact, support the KIDS Act.

52 percent of those voters, the analysis found, are certain to vote Democrat, and it isn't hard to see why. The evidence for such is further bolstered by the fact that 65 percent of the poll respondents know an undocumented person, and roughly half of all registered Latino voters in those districts (meaning not just those that participated in this study) are related to an undocumented person.

In short, said Segura, "messages of exclusion and hostility" like those present in the KIDS Act "are not the way to communicate with Latino voters."

While the GOP, Segura added, does have a chance to make up ground (62 percent of full-time Latino voters have voted Republican in the past), what this amounts to is that Republicans cannot expect to win the Latino electorate in the mid-terms based on their current policies and rhetoric.

Greisa Martinez, a Texas DREAMer whose father was deported in 2006, said, "We will not leave our parents behind. They deserve a chance to become citizens just as much as we do. Proposals to provide citizenship for some young people while excluding their parents is not going to get our stamp of approval."

Photo: The majority of Latino voters threw their support behind President Obama in the 2012 election, becoming a highly significant electorate. They are expected to play a role of similar import in the 2014 mid-term elections. AP

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