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Addressing Immigration Issues -- Mid-terms and Beyond

Nicholas Riccardi and Mark Z. Barabak illuminate the GOP's immigration strategy dilemma in their article in today's L.A.Times. The authors discuss the hard-liners vs. moderates internal conflict among Republicans and their efforts to avoid being viewed as Latino-bashers, while appearing tough on illegal immigration. They also provide revealing examples of how it's playing out in different mid-term campaigns.

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Rick Santorum has launched an ad accusing his challenger of favoring amnesty for people in the country illegally and giving them "preference over American workers." Rep. Bob Beauprez criticizes his Democratic opponent in the Colorado governor's race for supporting state benefits for illegal immigrants. In the Chicago suburbs, congressional hopeful David McSweeney is attacking Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean on immigration even though she voted in favor of the crackdown bill that passed the House in December.

Barabak and Riccardi note that part of the Republican hard-liners mid-term strategy is to demonize the more moderate Senate immigration legislation by branding it the "Kennedy-Reid" bill, even though GOP Senator John McCain is a primary co-sponsor. Not likely to work, as Jonathan Singer notes in his MyDD post on the LA Times piece:

If the Republicans believe that they can throw red meat to their nativist base while at the same time continue to court Hispanic voters, they are in for a rude surprise.

The Los Angeles Times might believe that Republicans can get away with talking out both sides of their mouths on immigration reform, but every time Republican politicians go out and bash immigrants in quasi-racist terminology they counteract the superficial Hispanic outreach pushed by Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove.

Despite the GOP spin machine, Democrats currently enjoy a double-digit lead on "handling of immigration issues," favored by 34 percent of respondents in a L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, conducted 6/24-27, compared to 23 percent expressing more confidence in Republicans. Further, Ruy Teixeira's Democratic Strategist article cites a Latino Coalition poll showing the Dems with "a stunning 61 percent to 21 percent lead over the GOP" among Hispanic registered voters.

For a more in-depth discussion of longer-range immigration politics, demographics and economic policy, read Roger Lowenstein's "The Immigration Equation" in the NYT Sunday Magazine. Reuters has an interesting WaPo article on what is being done to increase the Latino vote by 3 million in '08 over the 7.5 million Latino ballots cast in '04. Reuters says 8 million "legal resident" Latinos now qualify for naturalization --- 3 million in California alone.