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Immigration Is the Top Issue for Latino Voters in Key States

Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group in the U.S., and their votes could hinge on how the government addresses immigration: A poll released today by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund finds that immigration has overtaken economic issues, education and health care as the top policy issue for Latino voters in four states. In 2006, a poll released by NALEO found education, the economy and jobs, and the war in Iraq were the top concerns for Latino voters.

A majority of the 1,600 Latino voters surveyed in California, Colorado, Florida and Texas said they identify as Democrats, with only 16.5 percent identifying as Republicans. Most said they would be likely to vote against a candidate if they disagreed with the candidate’s stance on immigration.

The Washington Post’s Michael D. Shear reported today that the Obama administration hopes to use immigration to drive a wedge between Republicans and Latino voters:

West Wing strategists argue that the president’s call for legislation that acknowledges the role of immigrants and goes beyond punishing undocumented workers will help cement a permanent political relationship between Democrats and Hispanics — much as civil rights and voting rights legislation did for the party and African Americans in the 1960s.

As a result, although the president is unlikely to press for comprehensive immigration reform this year, he has urged his allies to keep up the pressure on Republican lawmakers.

“Look: The Republicans, if you do the math, cannot be successful as a national party if they continue to alienate Latinos,” said one Democratic strategist familiar with White House thinking on the issue.

Another top Democrat who has advised the administration on immigration added: “If the Republicans continue on the same course they are on, the politics of immigration are potentially devastating to their party.”

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