For the GOP on Immigration, a Delicate Balancing Act
Everyone is walking a thin line on immigration, but Republican politicians are in an especially tough position. Two-thirds of Republicans think the government should focus most of its efforts on securing the borders, according to a recent Gallup poll, and most proposals submitted on the new Republican idea engine, American Speaks Out, push for zero tolerance policies. The general shift to the right on immigration has moved some previously moderate Republicans (see: John McCain) to tougher immigration stances. Prior support for the DREAM Act, legislation that would ease the path to conditional permanent residency for students, is even being used against Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kans.) in his primary race for Senate. On the other hand, Hispanic voters could be the key to winning elections this fall, and some Republican politicians seem less willing to write them off.
In Utah, where lawmakers say they will not be deterred from crafting an Arizona-style bill, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) said Wednesday he would support the DREAM Act even though he opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants. Hatch, who will be up for election in 2012, has a moderate, if spotty, immigration record serving the 12 percent Hispanic state. His reasoning for supporting the DREAM Act is that the children of illegal immigrants should not be punished for their parents’ actions:
“With regard to the DREAM Act, a lot of these kids are brought in as infants. They don’t even know that they’re not citizens until they graduate from high school,” Hatch said. “If they’ve lived good lives, if they’ve done good things, why would we penalize them and not let them at least go to school?”
In California, Hispanic voters are increasingly voting for Democrats — something Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman seems to be trying to avoid. Whitman asserted her opposition to California’s 1994 Proposition 187 and Arizona’s SB 1070 — in Spanish — on billboards in the south of the state. “NO a la Proposicion 187 y NO a la Ley de Arizona — Meg Whitman.” The San Francisco Chronicle reports that this has been successful:
Thomas Holyoke, an associate professor of political science at California State University-Fresno, told us that according to Wednesday’s Field Poll, Whitman’s outreach is paying early dividends.
It appears to have helped, Holyoke said, that Whitman said she would have opposed Arizona controversial new immigration law. She said that even as GOP primary rival Steve Poizner was veering hard right on immigration.
“That Arizona law is something that appears to be resonating with Latino voters, Holyoke said.