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Election Analysis: The Latino Vote

December 08, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Nationally, the Latino share of the electorate increased by 1% over their share in 2004 (from 8% to 9%), and totaled 11 million voters—three million more than in the 2004 election.  Barack Obama captured 67% of those voters, compared to John Kerry’s 56%. In absolute numbers, that’s about 3 million more Latino voters for the Democratic candidate.

In several key states that went Republican in 2004, the increase in the Latino share of the electorate was larger than the national average.  In New Mexico, it was 9% greater.  In Colorado and Nevada, it was 5% greater.  These states went for Barack Obama.  (Pew Hispanic Center)


A survey of Latino voters conducted after the election in the 21 states accounting for 93% of the Latino electorate found that a whopping 92% of Latino registered voters surveyed said they had cast a ballot.  Of those voters, 46% were immigrants.  A significant number (15%) were voting for the first time.  A higher percentage of respondents to this survey said they voted for Barack Obama (72%) than had been reported from exit polls.  Among these voters, expectations are high for the immigration issue to be addressed, and comprehensive reform is strongly favored. (NALEO)


In Miami and Los Angeles, exit polling revealed that the subset of Latino voters that were immigrants voted in a higher percentage for Obama—78% vs. 22% for McCain.  These voters made up 40% of the Latino vote in those two locations.  For 89% of the Latin American immigrant voters, the issue of immigration was “very” or “somewhat” important.  More than 90% said they favored giving undocumented immigrants a chance to legalize their status. (America’s Voice)

Election Analysis: Asian American Voters

December 08, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Nationally, 62% of Asian Americans voted for Barack Obama and 32% voted for John McCain.  In Los Angeles, exit surveys indicated that 68% of Asian American voters supported Barack Obama, including 24% of Asian American Republican voters.  The issue of immigration was among the most important issues in helping to determine Asian American voters’ preference.  In Los Angeles, Asians comprised 9% of the electorate.  (Asian Pacific American Legal Center)


In Chicago, Asian American voters gave Barack Obama an 81% to 16% margin of victory.  Looking at younger voters (18 to 30 yrs. old), the margin was 92% to 3%. When asked how they perceived the political parties attitudes towards immigrants, 50% of respondents said they thought Democrats were “very favorable” towards immigrants, while 46% thought Republicans were “not favorable” towards immigrants.  (Asian American Institute)

Election Analysis: Immigration as a Wedge Issue

December 08, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

In 21 House and Senate races in swing districts where a Republican candidate used illegal immigration as a wedge issue against the Democratic challenger, Democrats came out on top in 19 of the races.  While not all of the successful candidates said they favored comprehensive reform, they advocated policies beyond enforcement only. (America’s Voice)


The lack of success of the wedge issue strategy, in the case of immigration, was not entirely due to its rejection by Latinos.  In a post-election national poll, a majority of both McCain supporters and Obama supporters indicated they favored a comprehensive approach to the immigration problem.  In the general electorate, 57% favored a comprehensive solution (verses 28% favoring enforcement only).  This margin has not changed much in the past two years. (National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice)


Will Republicans, who have tended to latch on to the hard-line on immigration, learn that this is not a productive position to take for those who want to win elections?  Republican strategist Karl Rove recently wrote an essay, The Way Out of the Wilderness, printed in Newsweek.  He says in part, The GOP won't be a majority party if it cedes the young or Hispanics to Democrats. Republicans must find a way to support secure borders, a guest-worker program and comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens citizenship, grows our economy and keeps America a welcoming nation. An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal.

A summary of information on the election results from various sources has been compiled by the Immigration Policy Center, and can be obtained here:

Some Key Congressional Leadership Picks

December 08, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who has become a leader on immigration in the Senate (especially on matters related to family immigration) has been named to Chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  He replaces New York Senator Charles Schumer in that post.


Representative Xavier Becerra, who has in the past served as the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Immigration Subcommittee, has been elected to serve as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus.


Representative Nydia Velasquez (D-NY) will chair the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.




Transition, White House and Agency Picks

December 08, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

President-elect Obama has already announced several of his cabinet choices.  Those related to immigration include:

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano will be the Secretary of Homeland Security.  As Secretary, she will be charged with overseeing the various immigration agencies that are part of the Department of Homeland Security.  The choice of Governor Napolitano is a signal by the President-elect that immigration will be a focus of concern.  As Governor of Arizona, Napolitano is acutely aware of the problems caused by the dysfunctional immigration system.  While Governor Napolitano has supported tough enforcement measures, she has spoken out on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. (See the Forum’s press release here.)

Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY) will serve as Secretary of State, and  Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General under President Clinton, will be Attorney General.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will serve as Secretary of Commerce.  Last year, President Bush enlisted the aid of his Homeland Security and Commerce Secretaries in lobbying Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.  In the Obama Administration, these two posts will be filled by people who are solidly pro-reform.

Our friend and colleague Cecilia Muñoz has been named Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the White House.  Ms. Muñoz has been Senior Vice President for the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza, and was a long-time member of the National Immigration Forum’s Board of Directors. (See our press release here.)

The President-elect has set up a number of Policy Review Teams, one of which focuses on immigration.  Leading that team are Stanford law Professor Tino Cuéllar and Georgetown University Law Center Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff, who served as Executive Associate Commissioner for Programs and as General Counsel in the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton years.


You can find principles on the issue of immigration from the transition team here:

A Little More Political Space

December 06, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

In the past three years, the immigration debate has been dominated by angry voices.  Any positive immigration reform proposal advanced in Congress to fix the broken immigration system elicited thousands of calls to Congressional offices as anti-immigrant groups and conservative talk radio hosts whipped their followers in opposition to “amnesty.”  With their passions raised, constituents opposed to reform that included any break for undocumented immigrants called again and again at each turn of the debate.  Up to now, there was little “political space” to move immigration reform; every time a proposal was floated in Congress, it was shot down by the flood of calls, and by the politicians who figured that those calls were representative of the majority of their constituents.

Funny thing happened on Election Day: those angry constituents could only vote once.  On election day, the voice of every voter had equal weight.  That was a problem for politicians who misjudged the composition of the electorate. 

The politicians who lost their races did so for many reasons.  Immigration, however, was a factor.  This wedge issue backfired big time.  What the parties will ultimately learn from this election will be debated for some time.  There is a debate, though, and it is not just taking place among the immigration advocates on both sides.  The story of Latino and immigrant voters rejecting candidates who adopted a hard line on immigration and turning out to vote in unprecedented numbers has been a feature in every analysis of this election appearing in the mainstream media. 

The new Administration and Congress have many serious problems to tackle.  Whether or not immigration reform is dealt with immediately, immigration reform advocates have gained political space.  Congress may again be flooded with calls opposing “amnesty,” but those calls will occur in a different context.  Now politicians are aware that come election day, their survival depends on reaching out to more than the segment of the electorate that is upset with undocumented immigrants.  It should give pause to politicians prone to attacking immigrants, and it should bolster those who are sympathetic, but who might not have risked taking a stand for immigration reform.

Our colleagues at the Immigration Policy Center have just released a summary of some of the polling and analysis that has been published since the election.  You can find it here.

Border Delegation Releases Report, Makes the Rounds in DC

December 01, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

The change in administration provides an opportunity for a wide-ranging examination of immigration policies and practices.  In the past couple of weeks, various constellations of organizations have been weighing in with the transition team for President-elect Obama on different aspects of the immigration system.

During the week of November 17th, representatives of the Border Network for Human Rights, the Border Action Network, and the U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force were in town to release a report, Effective Border Policy: Security, Responsibility and Human Rights at the U.S.-Mexico Border. 

The report details the impact current border enforcement strategies have had on border communities in the last several years.  Among the consequences: abuses of the rights of U.S. citizens and legal residents in border communities; a rising death toll among immigrants crossing the desert to come to work in the U.S.; an increasingly lucrative and violent smuggling business; vigilantes; increased militarization of border communities; abuses by a greatly expanded and sometimes poorly-trained force of border agents; racial profiling; and communities divided by border walls.

At the same time, the government’s border strategy has not worked to stop the flow of undocumented workers.  The economy of the U.S. has absorbed many more immigrants than are allowed to come legally.  Until the laws are fixed, focusing on border enforcement alone is not likely to succeed.

In short, it’s time to think about a new approach, and that is what the representatives of border communities were here to talk about.  In the group were elected officials, faith leaders, representatives of local law enforcement agencies, representatives of community organizations, businessmen, lawyers, and academics.  The report lays out dozens of recommendations. Among them:

§         Strengthen community security by focusing on the criminal element and the real dangers facing border communities.

§         Implement policies that ensure accountability and provide local oversight of enforcement activities.

§         Halt construction of the border wall, which has divided communities.

§         Overhaul detention practices and the manner in which removals are conducted.

§         Invest in economic development as the long-term solution to migratory pressures.


The full report can be found here:


You can find an executive summary here:

While in Washington, the delegation made the rounds on Capitol Hill—visiting several Members of Congress, including Representative Zoe Lofgren and Representative John Conyers, respectively the Chairs of the Immigration Subcommittee and the full Judiciary Committee in the House.  On the Senate side, they met with the offices of Senator Edward Kennedy (Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee) and Majority Leader Harry Reid, among others.  In the agencies, they met with DHS’ Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties as well as Border Patrol Chief Commissioner Luis Aguilar. In addition to the press conference, there were two briefings for Hill staff, one for Senate staffers and one for House staffers.  Before they departed Washington, there was a meeting with many of the Washington groups who are preparing for the immigration debate in the 111th Congress, and the insights of the U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force members will make a valuable contribution to the policy recommendations now being prepared for the new Administration.

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