12:14pm August 28, 2012

Dream On: With No Immigration Reform Platform GOP Flirts With Minority Party Status


The Republican party is in a bit of a bind: its base cries out loudly for an enforcement immigration policy while its pathway to growth — Latino voters — practically demand an immigration reform policy. What’s a Grand Ol’ Party to do? The adopted Republican Party platform called for more border enforcement, the opposition of any kind of amnesty, requires all businesses to verify workers’ legal status through E-Verify, and halt federal funds to colleges and universities that allow undocumented students to enroll at lower in-state tuition rates.

Recently, Florida Senator Marco Rubio proposed his own version of the DREAM Act, but Michael Olivas, a professor who teaches immigration law at the University of Houston Law Center, called this proposed legislation, “a nightmare act.” The proposal wouldn’t have given students work permits, thus, it would have frozen them in place until something more substantive came along. And, based on the fact that just three Republicans in the Senate voted for the DREAM Act at the end of 2010, that policy would have been a long way off.

What’s happening instead is that the Republican party is falling into what Stephen A. Nuño, assistant professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University, calls “the California model.” To stay in power, Republicans are increasingly depending on whites to be elected to office, and in order to satiate that constituency’s desires, they have to move further and further to the right on issues like immigration.

“You don’t survive in a Republican party without taking these extreme kind of stances. To win a primary, you have to go far right,” Nuño explained. “Definitely, the Republicans have a problem, there’s not a whole lot of willingness to change that.”

The one entré Nuño sees for immigration reform in the Republican party’s platform is a long-term process by which Latino Republican leaders such as New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez or Rubio pave the way for more Latinos within the party. In 20 years, he said, maybe Latino Republicans won’t be so novel and an immigration reform platform will be possible.

But that assumes the Republican party is trying to change, said Professor Luis Fraga, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement at the University of Washington and a political scientist who studies Latino voting behavior. Although not all Latino Republicans support the “attrition through enforcement” policies the party has become known for, some do, and this doesn’t pave the way for immigration reform organically appearing on the party platform.

“The Republican Party is comfortable being known as the party of white Americans with minimal Latino and African American support,” he said, noting that Latino voters tend to choose candidates based on policy positions, rather than their race or ability to speak Spanish.

Because in states where the party has solid majorities, not only do Republicans not have to endorse immigration reform, but Fraga said they mobilize their white base by speaking out against it. Consequently, they can accept losing Latino voters in swing states like Nevada, as well as potential swing states like Virginia and Ohio where Latino voters may be critical to a marginal Democratic victory. And so the question of immigration reform on the GOP platform becomes something of a chicken-or-egg question: if the GOP doesn’t endorse reform, will Latino voters come anyway — or must Latino voters come in order for the GOP to endorse reform?

“Without growth in Latino support the Republican Party risks becoming a permanent minority party, as it has in California,” Fraga said. “It may be that they have developed a strategy that they can still win a presidential election with Latino support at about 25% — I am not sure that this is true.”

About the Author

Sara Inés Calderón
Sara Inés Calderón
Sara Inés Calderón is a journalist and writer bouncing between California and Texas.


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  1. Isabel Martin

    Are all Latinos single issue voters? DNC has offered a 2 year band aid for some. The discussion needs to start with: is this a nation of laws, and are the laws applied equally to all.
    Then each state should be allowed to decide how many immigrants they want, and how to get them the work permits they would require. Let each state work it out.

  2. Mr. Fraga is an ethnic agitator: the GOP only needs to appeal even more to working class and middle class whites, especially white males, to dominate in the forseeable future. Latinos are irrelevant compared to that class. The GOP had already reaped the rewards of increasing whites voting for the GOP in the 2010 midterms without doing a thing to court them. The GOP only needs to reach in, not reach out. However, the GOP has a big problem with the conflicting interests of their open-borders, slave labor lobby and their working class and middle class base who have defected to the other side. The writer of this opinion piece and those quoted affirming that opinion know that they're outnumbered and that the US is not California. They only hope to appeal to the endless greed and fears of the GOP's leadership to cave in and give them whatever they want. With foreign-born (read Latino) children comprising half of all US students now, expect the polarization to harden and the white working class to abandon the Democrats completely.

  3. Brittanicus

    Enacting many laws under the Democrats, Liberals or Republicans will remain virtually impossible to pass. As an Independent my vote is not going to President Obama and the only reason I am voting for Mitt Romney, is to insure more TEA PARTY LEADERS unseat all those in Congress. I think potential VP Paul Ryan is a good choice, as he is yet another TEA PARTY politician? Any new laws that make financial sense have never had any possibility of enough votes in the House of Representatives and certainly not the Senate, held in contempt of the will of the people. With a steel grip in the Senate, and constantly failing to reach cloture by arch Liberal incumbent Sen. Harry Reid whatever in the way of bills of any need, will never reach the floor.

    Both political Parties need to be held accountable for not passing the ‘Legal Workforce bill’ known exclusively as E-Verify (H.R.2885) or a crucial amendment known as the ‘Birthright Citizenship Law’ (H.R.140). The TEA PARTY however has this initiative that if they affirm more authority and influence in the Republican Party, these two laws will find passage. Join the local TEA PARTY and cast your vote for MITT ROMNEY. By infiltrating the Republican Party the TEA PARTY will have overall influence to stop illegal immigration, open up more oil drilling areas, a fair tax code for everybody; stop Obama from allowing the United Nations from more influencing in American laws, lower the U.S. treasury 16 Trillion dollar deficit and many controversial issues.

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