Prior to President Obama’s speech Last Thursday, Luis Gutierrez, a Democratic Congressman, was predicting a “civil war” within his party unless the President issued an executive amnesty for illegal aliens. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican Congresswoman, thought her party would “alienate” Hispanics unless the GOP passed an immigration bill.
This all begs the question, are Hispanics really single-issue voters who only care about amnesty, as these politicians would attempt to have us believe?
Of course not! Polling repeatedly shows that Hispanic support for amnesty is wildly overstated. Hispanics want the same things as Americans from other ethnic groups — a strong economy and a stable future.
During last week’s midterm elections, exit pollsters asked Hispanic voters to name the most important issue facing the country. Almost half cited the economy as the most pressing issue. Just 16 percent considered immigration the top concern.
When asked to list issues that are “important” or “very important” to them, 92 percent of Hispanic voters selected “education”, 91 percent said “jobs and the economy,” and 86 percent picked “healthcare.” Less than 3 in 4 felt “immigration” was important or very important.
Considering that over one-fifth of Hispanic voters think that people living in the country illegally should be deported, it’s a safe bet that many of those who ranked immigration as important are actually worried that there are too many immigrants rather than too few.
Even Hispanics who favor relaxed immigration laws aren’t hung up on the issue. A Pew survey conducted this fall reveals that 60 percent of Hispanics would definitely or maybe vote for a candidate they disagreed with on immigration, as long as they agreed on most other issues.
That helps explain why Texas Senator John Cornyn won a majority of Hispanic votes in his reelection campaign, even though he advocates “securing our porous border” and “verifying the status of workers.”
Pro-amnesty groups like Mi Familia Vota (My Family Votes) think President Obama angered Hispanic voters and dampened turnout by postponing an executive amnesty. But there’s little evidence to back up that claim.
Hispanic voters born in the United States are evenly divided regarding the president’s delay. Seven percent reported they were very happy that the president didn’t go through with his planned amnesty this past summer. That’s the same number who said they were angry about the decision. The 22 percent who were disappointed by the delay roughly matched the 21 percent who were pleased.
Perhaps the most shocking statistic is that more than a third of surveyed voters hadn’t heard about the delay at all — proof that immigration is hardly the top concern for many Hispanics.
Over the coming months the Center For Progressive Urban Politics is going to delve deeply into the President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action in order to gain a better understanding of its implications for average American citizens. We will also delve into why the rush for this action when it clearly isn’t a priority of the citizenry?
In closing, given that Hispanic Americans aren’t a monolithic voting block solely focused on immigration. Politicians should stop stereotyping them as such.