US Latinos back border plan

If House Republicans insist on sealing the border and blocking ObamaCare and other entitlements to current illegal immigrants before any legalization process can begin, how will U.S. Latino voters react? Will it trigger a backlash against Republicans or will Latinos accept the conditions willingly?

A new survey just released by McLaughlin & Associates and organized and funded by California GOP activist John Jordan indicates they will happily endorse the Republican amendments.

To be sure, 86 percent of U.S. Latino voters back an immigration reform plan that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But, their support for reform does not stop them from wanting tougher border enforcement to stop further illegal immigration. By 60-35, Hispanic voters want tougher border enforcement. Asked about specific measures like fencing, more agents, drone surveillance and other steps to strengthen border enforcement, Latino voters approve 55-42.

In addition, they are willing to hold up legalization efforts until they get it. When McLaughlin asked U.S. Latino voters if they would support or oppose legislation that granted legal status but only did so after 90 percent of illegal immigration was prevented, they approved by 60-34.

And, by a margin of 56-40, Latino voters would oppose granting current illegal immigrants access to federal benefits, including ObamaCare, “while they are going through the legalization process and until the 90 percent goal is reached.”

The survey revealed an interesting fault line between currently registered U.S. Latino voters and those who are here legally but are not voters and/or citizens.

Latino voters ranked immigration reform fourth on a list of four issues in importance to them. The economy ranked first or second in importance for 63 percent, while 57 percent cited healthcare and 45 percent said education was either their first or second priority. Only 31 percent of Latino voters ranked immigration among the top two issues.

But among Latinos who were not registered to vote, immigration emerged as the top priority.

Sixty-four percent of Latino voters — but only 57 percent of Latino adults — supported employers having to check with the E-Verify system before hiring anyone to assure their legal status

The problem the Republican Party has with Latinos is not primarily caused by immigration reform, per se. The survey indicates that it runs deeper: 65 percent of Latino voters say that they think the Republican Party discriminates against Hispanics; 62 percent say the party “doesn’t care” about people like them; and 59 percent feel that Republicans oppose immigration reform because of a desire to keep Hispanics out of the country.

But the poll indicates that passing immigration reform, even with border security amendments, could do a great deal to improve the party’s image. By 47-42 percent, Latino voters agreed that there are “new forces within the Republican Party,” like Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama The Hill's 12:30 Report Rubio taps head of Heritage Action as new chief of staff MORE, who “are fighting for immigration reform and for fair treatment for Latinos.” Those who dissented — 42 percent — said that it was “the same old Republican Party and is as prejudiced as always against Latinos.”

However, the survey indicated that only 29 percent said they would never vote for a Republican.

Will passing an immigration reform bill solve the Republican Party’s Hispanic image problem? No. But it will clear the issue out of the way and allow Latinos to drift to the GOP impelled by their social conservatism, faith in the family, abhorrence of debt and suspicion of government handouts. Once immigration is out of the way, Latinos will behave like other traditional immigrant groups and move right as they move up.

Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Clinton, is the author of 16 books including his latest, Screwed and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.