The Post-Election Day Immigration Fallout

While many Democrats are lamenting post-Election Day results, immigration advocates are breathing a small sigh of relief. The general sentiment seems to be that things are bad, but they could’ve been much worse. While several anti-immigrant politicians won last night, a few close key races swung in favor of pro-immigrant candidates:

Nevada [Senate]: The most recent pre-election polls put Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) neck-in-neck with his opponent, Sharron Angle (R-NV). However, while exit polls show Angle received 51 percent of the White vote, it appears Latino voters helped put Reid over the edge. Exit polls reveal Latinos accounted for a record 16 percent of total voters. At least sixty-eight percent of Latino voters supported Reid. This likely had a lot to do with Angle’s race-baiting ads that used nasty images of Latinos to portray Reid as “the best friend of an illegal alien.” Latino voters were also riled by a controversial voter suppression ad aired by a GOP group telling Latinos not to vote. Meanwhile, Reid has repeatedly vowed to use his leadership position to jump start the immigration debate.

Colorado [Governor]: Both Tom Tancredo, who ran for Colorado governor as an independent, and GOP candidate Dan Maes pulled all the stunts to frustrate Democrat John Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial bid by saying he is soft on immigration. Tancredo is one of the nation’s leading anti-immigrant zealots and wasn’t afraid to make that known during his campaigning. Last week, he told the Denver Post, “working with the General Assembly, I will support strong enforcement of existing laws aimed at illegal immigrants and will sign new legislation on the Arizona model if passed by the legislature.” Hickenlooper has said he would veto a law like Arizona’s. He won with 51 percent of the vote.

California [Senate and Governor]:Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (R-CA) realized early on in the general election that she needed the support of Latinos in order to win. She poured millions of dollars into Latino voter outreach. However, her popularity dipped amongst Latinos and the California electorate in general when news broke that she had employed an undocumented housekeeper for nine years and then fired her. Both Whitman and senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina held harsh views on immigration. Both lost handily, particularly amongst Latinos. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) was reelected with 65 percent of the Latino vote while gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown (D) carried 64 percent.

Nonetheless, the immigrants rights movement also took some big hits last night:

Kansas [Secretary of State]:Architect of Arizona’s immigration law Kris Kobach won his bid for Kansas Secretary of State. Kobach pledged to eliminate voter fraud, a phenomena he insists is rampant in the immigrant community.

Florida [Senate and Governor]:Tea Party darling Marco Rubio won Florida’s Senate seat handily. During his primary against Charlie Crist, Rubio used the immigration issue as a wedge. During the general election, Rubio adopted a softer tone, though he still supports making English the official language of the U.S. and opposes comprehensive immigration reform. This morning, gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink (D) conceded defeat. Republican Rick Scott, who wants to bring Arizona’s immigration law to Florida, won by about 1 percent.

Kentucky [Senate]: Tea Party patriot Rand Paul (R), who proposed building an underground electric fence on the U.S.-Mexico border, won his bid for Kentucky senate. Paul also supports changing the 14th amendment to deny the American-born children of undocumented immigrants U.S. citizenship.

Arizona [Governor]:As many predicted, Republican Jan Brewer will remain governor of Arizona. Brewer signed off on Arizona’s immigration law and remains its staunchest proponent. In the next legislative season, she will be in the middle of a legislative debate on whether to deny the children of undocumented immigrants citizenship and make them pay public school tuition.

Pennsylvania [House]: The former mayor of Hazleton — one of the first towns to pass a stringent anti-immigrant ordinance — unseated longtime incumbent Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D). The winner, Lou Barletta told Politico earlier this week, “We can convince others, if we’re going to deal with the deficit and the budget, you can’t exclude the illegal immigration problem out of that equation because it has a direct effect on the budget.”

Overall, the biggest hit didn’t come in the form of one particular race, but rather in a series of losses in the House which shifted control from Democrats to Republicans. As I explained yesterday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) will head the House Judiciary Committee which oversees all immigration issues. His outspoken colleague, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), will be in charge of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration. Both lawmakers will put immigration advocates on the defense with their planned assault on legal and undocumented immigrants alike.