According to a poll released yesterday, “U.S. immigration policy” beat out “economy and jobs” as the issue most important for Hispanic voters. The poll, conducted by independent research firm Latino Decisions, asked 500 registered Hispanic voters to name the most important issues facing Hispanics. 51% of respondents said “immigration;” 35% said “economy and jobs;” and 15% said “education.” Pollsters suggest voters’ “direct and personal connection with the problems of the undocumented” as a reason immigration topped the economy—personal relationships that even “affect the political choices of a second or third generation of Latinos born here.” With reform efforts stalled in Congress, many are wondering what kind of political choices Hispanic voters will make in the upcoming 2012 election cycle.
Some—including the Administration—may be resting on the assumption that Democrats have a lock on the Latino vote given the continuous stream of anti-immigrant rhetoric from the political right. But a recent tracking poll, also by Latino Decisions, found Hispanic voters evenly split over President Obama’s performance on immigration—“48% said Obama is handling the issue well, while another 48% said he is not.”
“It’s clear that Latino voters are holding the [Democratic] party responsible for not making too much of an effort on immigration, but also the Republicans for preventing it,” said Gabriel Sánchez, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico.
Just last night, GOP candidates held a debate in New Hampshire in which they rattled off the same enforcement-only talking points immigration restrictionists have been using for months as an excuse not to reform our system. But the mantras of securing the borders first, “enforcing the laws on the books” and allowing states to legislate immigration law isn’t winning them any support among Latinos.
According to the poll, “55% [of Hispanic voters] think Republicans are constantly talking about securing the border as an excuse not to approve immigration reform” while “only 30% think border security is a legitimate concern.” Additionally, the poll found that “62% think the country is focusing enough resources on raids and deportations.”
Obviously, polls are not absolute indicators of how respondents will vote. Results will continue to fluctuate given a number of variables, but one thing is certain—no matter how many people you ask or how your phrase your question, voters want more from our leaders than just empty campaign promises or heated enforcement rhetoric on immigration. They want fair, just and plausible solutions that actually address our immigration problems.