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Posted on 08-12-2010
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Pundits should listen to voters on immigration

Frank Sharry

News coverage of the recent ruling on the Arizona anti-immigrant law is re-igniting the debate over comprehensive immigration reform and the need for a federal solution. But as Washington pundits analyze the political implications of the judge’s decision, they are turning to outdated thinking instead of real facts from real elections. Conventional wisdom in Washington has it that the Obama Administration’s lawsuit, and success in court, will hurt congressional Democrats in swing districts and help Republicans mobilize their base. Once again, these experts prove that they have a superficial understanding of the politics of immigration.
The Arizona law and Wednesday’s [July 28] ruling only heightens the public’s desire for a federal immigration solution. While polls show the Arizona law is popular with voters, these same surveys show comprehensive immigration reform is even more popular. The public is hungry for leaders in Washington to solve this problem, and they will reward politicians who cut through the rhetoric to offer real solutions.”
Some points to consider about the politics of immigration:
Conventional wisdom has consistently been wrong: While running on a hard-line immigration stance may work in some Republican primaries, it has not proven to be successful in the vast majority of general election campaigns. Polling in swing districts and states consistently shows that comprehensive immigration reform is supported by a majority of voters because it is a practical solution that increases the tax base and restores order to the system. In 2006 and 2008, comprehensive reform candidates consistently trounced hard-line candidates in close races. An América’s Voice report found that in twenty of twenty-two contested congressional races in 2008, the losers advocated a deportation-only agenda and the winners supported more comprehensive policies. According to the late Richard Nadler, a GOP activist who studied the role of immigration in 2008 House races: “Immigration was a wedge issue benefiting the Democratic Party, but not the GOP.”
The American people have complex views on immigration, and support pragmatic approaches to fixing the problem: Voters want the problem of illegal immigration solved and want a national solution instead of a state-by state approach. A number of recent surveys have shown that while the Arizona immigration law is popular, comprehensive immigration reform enjoys even wider support. Bi-partisan nationwide polling conducted by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies found that 60% of ...
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