There's No Reason To Believe GOP Can Win Hispanic Votes with Immigration "Reform"

Pardon me if this blog seems a little messy. I’ve been digging through the muddy pudding of immigration and voter data looking for some proof that passing a “comprehensive” immigration bill would in fact help the GOP win votes among the Hispanic electorate.

Proponents of the current immigration bill — from the Wall Street Journal to former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — insist that if the GOP doesn’t get onboard the legalization bus, the party will lose the Hispanic vote.

In their May 31 op-ed published in the Journal, Mehlman and Bush cited polling by David Winston showing Hispanic voters slightly to the right of the country as a whole. Therefore, the Hispanic vote is ripe for the GOP picking, if only we wouldn’t screw things up by insisting on the rule of law.

But what proof do we have that the GOP would receive more Hispanic votes if an immigration bill were to be signed into law by President George W. Bush? Is there any historical evidence that legalization of illegal border crossers would increase Republicans’ slice of the electoral pie? Well, since this issue has been largely ignored since President Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, we have only that landmark legislation as a means of reference. So gather up the kiddos, print out a copy of that all-important plea by Mehlman and Bush in the Wall Street Journal to pass a new and improved immigration bill and hold on to your seat …

They key thing to remember is that in 1986, President Reagan and the Congress (including a Republican Senate) passed immigration reform. In 1988, George H.W. Bush received 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, down from 34 percent for Reagan in 1984 and 37 percent for Reagan in 1980. (Information sourced at the University of Connecticut’s Roper Center Public Opinion Archives. http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/elect_2004/index.html)

It is not clear to me how anyone can believe that immigration reform is an issue that is vote-determinative for Hispanics. During the last go-round, the GOP held the presidency as well as the Senate and wound up losing 4 percent of the Hispanic vote in the following election.

So much for finding any proof in the pudding.