GOP Rhetoric and Actions Matter to Latinos on Immigration

A new survey by Latino Decisions neatly captures the strategic bind the GOP finds itself in over immigration. The short of it: when Republican Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) talk about immigration, both senators and the GOP at-large suffer among Latino voters; when Republican Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) or Democrat Bob Menendez (D-NJ) talk about immigration, both senators and their respective parties are viewed more favorably by Latinos.

Here’s the direct language the group tested followed by a chart showing the impact:

Sen. Ted Cruz: “I have serious concerns about any legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for those who are here illegally. I think doing so is profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who have followed the rules. We should prohibit all federal, state and local benefits for those who are here illegally, and ensure that illegal immigrants are not given a path to citizenship.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions: ‘Citizenship for illegalswill not help balance our budget. In fact, a large-scale amnesty is likely to add trillions of dollars to the debt over time because illegal immigrants will put enormous strain on our public-assistance programs. Illegal immigrants need government aid and can’t take care of themselves. We can never support this immigration reform bill.”

Sen. Marco Rubio: “The American people are the most compassionate people on earth -they have proven that over and over again. The question now is we have 11 million people in the country that are here illegally. We recognize we’re not going to round up 11 million people and deport them. We must show compassion and support immigration reform today.”

Sen. Bob Menendez: “The time has come for farm workers and fruit pickers, students and DREAMERS, cooks and maids, hotel workers and housekeepers, landscapers and construction workers, and non-citizen soldiers fighting to protect all of us, to have a chance to raise their hand and take the oath of citizenship. We mustsupport immigration reform today.”

The results:

If this isn’t enough to convince the brains running the GOP political operation to do the right thing on immigration, then perhaps this finding will sharpen the mind. Fifty-two percent of Latino voters would view the GOP more favorably if they helped to pass comprehensive immigration reform despite their potential disagreement on other issues:

As Latino Decisions concludes, “The results could not be more clear. Over half of Latino voters say they would be more favorable to the party if only they pass immigration reform. It is so important that CIR now trumps all other issues and partisanship (note 47% of Democrats also say they would be more favorable) for a significant segment of the Latino electorate. In combination these results tell us that Republicans have a unique opportunity to re-build relationships with Latino voters. Should they squander the moment by blocking the bill, they will effectively concede the majority of the Latino vote for many election cycles to come.”


President Obama also should take note of this poll. Nearly two-thirds of Latino voters (63 percent) say that they will view the President and the Democrats more favorably if he uses executive authority to provide legal status for undocumented immigrants should the GOP block the measure in Congress. The race is on to see which party can do the right thing for millions of people living in our country without full legal status and reap the subsequent benefits among a strong and growing constituency.