Politics

Will Immigration Decision Fuel Latino Turnout?

Experts say both the ruling and recent Obama announcement could energize voters.

June 25, 2012, 12:32 p.m.

The Su­preme Court may have giv­en Pres­id­ent Obama a double vic­tory when it handed down its rul­ing re­gard­ing Ari­zona’s con­tro­ver­sial im­mig­ra­tion law.

The Court on Monday not only af­firmed the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s right to set im­mig­ra­tion policy in strik­ing down three of the four pro­vi­sions in SB 1070; in up­hold­ing the most con­tro­ver­sial “show me your pa­pers” com­pon­ent — which re­quires po­lice to check the leg­al status of any­one they stop or ar­rest if they sus­pect they are here il­leg­ally—the high court may also have giv­en a his­tor­ic­ally re­luct­ant His­pan­ic elect­or­ate a real reas­on to turn out for the pres­id­ent.

“This [court rul­ing] is ex­actly what [Lati­nos] have been fear­ful of,” said Gary Se­gura, a polit­ic­al-sci­ence pro­fess­or at Stan­ford Uni­versity and a prin­cip­al at the polling firm Latino De­cisions. “The de­cision is kind of a win for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, but also from the per­spect­ive of Latino voters, this [is­sue] is still a really big deal.”

Even as Demo­crats have had little else to cel­eb­rate in June, the pres­id­ent ap­pears to be on sol­id polit­ic­al foot­ing with re­gards to im­mig­ra­tion.

Ten days ago, to the de­light of Latino act­iv­ists, he an­nounced that his ad­min­is­tra­tion would halt de­port­a­tions and cre­ate a path to leg­al status for some young im­mig­rants who had been brought to the United States il­leg­ally when they were chil­dren.

Now the Obama cam­paign has a power­ful case to make when it paints a pic­ture for Lati­nos about what life un­der a Re­pub­lic­an ad­min­is­tra­tion could look like.

The most re­cent USA Today/Gal­lup poll shows that Obama has already opened up a wide gulf among Latino voters, lead­ing Re­pub­lic­an Mitt Rom­ney by 66 per­cent to 25 per­cent and put­ting Rom­ney in the weak­est po­s­i­tion with Lati­nos since Bob Dole in 1996.

But the great­er con­sequence of the Su­preme Court’s SB 1070 de­cision may be mo­bil­iz­a­tion among the Latino com­munity. As their num­bers have grown, Lati­nos have in­deed wiel­ded more in­flu­ence, usu­ally to the be­ne­fit of Demo­crats.

Even so, their power has been muted by tra­di­tion­ally tep­id par­ti­cip­a­tion com­pared with oth­er groups. About 21 mil­lion Lati­nos will be eli­gible to vote in Novem­ber, but only 10 mil­lion are re­gistered. If past serves as pre­ced­ent, even few­er will vote.

“The big ques­tion is turnout,” said GOP strategist Ana Nav­arro, who ad­vised 2008 Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­eeJohn Mc­Cain on Latino is­sues. “Between [Obama’s] Dream policy an­nounce­ment 10 days ago and this Su­preme Court de­cision, what was a very dis­il­lu­sioned and leth­ar­gic base un­til a couple of weeks ago is now en­er­gized.”

(RE­LATED: Full Battle­grounds 2012 Cov­er­age)

That has the po­ten­tial to make a dif­fer­ence in a num­ber of swing states in the South­w­est — Nevada, Col­or­ado, and New Mex­ico — where the Latino pop­u­la­tion has skyrock­eted over the past dec­ade. Polit­ic­al ana­lysts have also turned their at­ten­tion re­cently to Ari­zona, a tra­di­tion­ally Re­pub­lic­an strong­hold that nev­er­the­less has seen a siz­able in­crease in its Latino pop­u­la­tion and where “show me your pa­pers” ac­tu­ally will be felt. The Obama cam­paign re­cently began an ag­gress­ive re­gis­tra­tion ef­fort there.

“I’ve seen polling in the last few weeks com­ing out of Ari­zona that show it with­in the mar­gin of er­ror, which is shock­ing and would be a real cause of con­cern for Re­pub­lic­ans,” Se­gura said. “If Demo­crats can make Ari­zona com­pet­it­ive, that will be a dir­ect con­sequence of this law.”

Nev­er­the­less, Ari­zona-based polit­ic­al ana­lyst Mike O’Neil points out that the Latino vote has been oft-prom­ised and nev­er de­livered; 2012 would be a first if His­pan­ics do turn out in force.

“When you’ve got your­self or your neigh­bors pulled over on the street to be checked for pa­pers “¦ I think [that] be­comes po­ten­tially the grist for mo­bil­iz­a­tion,” O’Neil said. “Un­der­score is on the word po­ten­tial. They still have to beat the pave­ments and make it hap­pen.”

The Ari­zona de­cision is the second time in two weeks that ques­tions over im­mig­ra­tion policy have put Rom­ney in an awk­ward po­s­i­tion. The former Mas­sachu­setts gov­ernor has been boxed in by his party’s po­s­i­tions on the is­sue, even as many in the GOP have em­phas­ized the im­port­ance of mak­ing in­roads with His­pan­ic voters, who are wield­ing more power at the bal­lot box with each passing elec­tion cycle.

In a sidestep that has marked Rom­ney’s deal­ings with the is­sue, he is­sued a brief state­ment as­sail­ing the pres­id­ent on his policies but didn’t of­fer much in the way of his own pro­pos­als.

“Rom­ney has got to say something more defin­it­ive than ‘I’m anti-Obama,’ “ O’Neil said. “Right now, Re­pub­lic­ans are talk­ing about build­ing a moat and put­ting al­ligators in the wa­ter, and Rom­ney’s try­ing to ap­pear not to be totally ter­ri­fy­ing to His­pan­ics. He has a very del­ic­ate dance to pull off with re­spect to that.”

What We're Following See More »
CALLS CONGRESS "VERY PARTISAN"
Trump Opposes White House Aides Giving Congressional Testimony
16 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Trump on Tuesday said he is opposed to current and former White House aides providing testimony to congressional panels in the wake of the special counsel report, intensifying a power struggle between his administration and House Democrats. In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump said that complying with congressional requests was unnecessary after the White House cooperated with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference and the president’s own conduct in office."

Source:
WANTS IT BY MAY 1
Nadler Subpoenas Unredacted Report
5 days ago
THE LATEST
ONLY TWO ARE KNOWN
Mueller Made 14 Criminal Referrals
6 days ago
THE LATEST
POSTED ONLINE
The Report Is Here
6 days ago
THE LATEST
BARR IS OK WITH MUELLER TESTIFYING
Nadler Asks Mueller to Testify By May 23
6 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login