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Citizens’ law to bite GOP

In yet another case of the GOP sabotaging its natural midterm advantages, Florida Republicans are now working on their own version of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, which would give police broad powers to demand proof of citizenship from anyone deemed not American-looking enough.

The legislative effort has wide backing from the state GOP leadership and Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is seeking the governorship this year.

While such efforts are gaining steam in a number of states, Florida’s bill is particularly stupid in light of the state’s huge immigrant population. Latinos account for 21 percent of Florida’s population — the sixth-highest percentage of Latino residents among the states. In addition, Florida is home to significant Haitian, Jamaican and Asian immigrant communities. Like much of America, the state is becoming less and less Anglo. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, while Florida’s non-Hispanic white population grew by 5.43 percent between 2000 and 2005, the Latino population increased by 29 percent, African-Americans by 30 percent and Asians by 46 percent.

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The upshot is that while non-Hispanic whites constituted 66.5 percent of the population in 2000, that number has fallen to 58.8 percent in 2008.

Yet Florida Republicans think it’s a good idea to alienate the very minority groups that will soon make up a majority of Florida’s population, which almost certainly will invite the kind of national backlash that has already cost Arizona millions in lost convention and international tourism.

The Florida GOP is far from alone in this stupidity. Two weeks ago, the Texas Republican Party updated its platform, calling for the criminalization of being in Texas as an undocumented immigrant, opposing “amnesty in any form” and limiting citizenship to those born to a U.S. citizen “with no exceptions” — conveniently shredding the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Texas is already a majority-minority state, with just 49 percent of its population composed of non-Hispanic whites in 2005. Seventy-eight percent of the state’s growth in the next 30 years is projected to come from Latinos, compared to just 4 percent for whites. Yet while many immigrant communities tend toward social conservatism, the GOP seems pathologically intent on alienating them.

Noted conservative Latino political consultant Lionel Sosa told the Houston Chronicle that if his home-state Republicans don’t reverse course, “Texas will turn into a Democratic state, and once Texas turns Democratic … We’ll never elect a Republican president again.”

Republican pollster Whit Ayres is equally alarmed. “If Republicans don’t do better among Hispanic voters, we are not going to be talking about how we get Florida back in a presidential election,” he told the Chronicle. “We’re going to be talking about how we keep from losing Texas.”

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There’s no doubt that the federal government is failing to address a critical issue in immigration, and such inaction is particularly galling given the massive popularity (even among Republicans) of a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes stronger border security, cracking down on illegal hiring and a path to citizenship for immigrants already in the U.S. But Arizona-style immigration laws do nothing to solve this complex problem, serving only to hurt the GOP with Latinos.

Clearly, demographic concerns are secondary to the pressure mainstream Republicans feel to survive in the Tea Party era. Florida’s McCollum now trails in polling against a no-name political neophyte running far to his right. Texas’s Gov. Rick Perry resorted to secessionist rhetoric to win his primary. Tea Party conservatives demand ideological purity. Anything less earns candidates a swift kick to the curb.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).