National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

Action and Reaction

October 31, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

The vitriol unleashed towards immigrants during the debate on immigration reform planted the seed for reaction by the immigrant community and by Latinos, who felt that much of the vitriol was directed at them.  For a couple of years, a collaboration of groups have teamed up with Spanish-language media outlets to promote naturalization, voter registration, and get-out-the-vote efforts in the Ya es Hora campaign. 

The results of the collective efforts, combined with the incentive to beat the recent fee increase of naturalization, have been impressive.  Immigrants who have naturalized in the past two years have increased the pool of naturalized immigrants by ten percent.  The We Are America Alliance, a component of the Ya es Hora campaign, claims to have registered nearly 500,000 new voters, according to their Web site.

The Immigration Policy Center has just published a report that looks at what they call New American voters—immigrants who are naturalized citizens plus their U.S.-born children who were raised in the post-1965 era, when immigration from Latin America and Asia became predominant.  These immigrants and their children have a personal connection to the immigrant experience that becomes a factor in how they evaluate candidates for office.  In this election, it is expected that approximately one in ten voters will come from this group.

These new American and ethnic voters, as they turn out on November 4, will have an unprecedented impact on the 2008 elections.  There may be more than nine million Latino voters on November 4, including two and a half million new voters.  Immigrant and ethnic voters make up a significant percentage of the electorate in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada.  A recent NALEO Educational Fund poll found that nearly 90% of Latino registered voters in those states said they were almost certain to vote in November.  The Pew Hispanic Center recently reported that, nationwide, 75% of Latino registered voters view the immigration issue as “extremely” or “very” important. 

Pew reports that 65% of Latino registered voters identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, and 26% identify with or lean toward the Republican Party—the largest percentage gap seen in the past decade.  The Republican Party is showing similar appeal with Asian American voters—just 14% of whom identify themselves as Republicans.  With this group, however, there is a very large percentage who self-identify as independent or non-partisan, according to the National Asian American Survey released earlier this month.

Whether all of this translates into sufficient political power to put to rest, once and for all, the tactic of using immigration as a wedge issue remains to be seen.  You can follow the story of how the issue of immigration plays out in the elections by logging on to, which will post articles related to this story, as well as commentary from a group of polling experts and political strategists who have been following this story.

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