US
              In this Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 photo, immigrant Francisco Barranco, right, stands in his bakery La Tapatia, as employee Lorena Vasquez prepares gelatin in the Fair Haven neighborhood in New Haven, Conn. John DeStefano, the 10-term mayor of New Haven, helped illegal immigrants come out of the shadows five years ago with an ID card program. When he pledged recently to seek authorization for non-citizens to vote in local elections, it endeared him further to the city’s large Hispanic population and solidified New Haven’s reputation as a “sanctuary city” _ safe harbors that have become targets for criticism in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
              In this Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 photo, immigrant Francisco Barranco, right, stands in his bakery La Tapatia, as employee Lorena Vasquez prepares gelatin in the Fair Haven neighborhood in New Haven, Conn. John DeStefano, the 10-term mayor of New Haven, helped illegal immigrants come out of the shadows five years ago with an ID card program. When he pledged recently to seek authorization for non-citizens to vote in local elections, it endeared him further to the city’s large Hispanic population and solidified New Haven’s reputation as a “sanctuary city” _ safe harbors that have become targets for criticism in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)   

Democrats work to scare up Hispanic vote

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Multiple Democratic pundits are making a coordinated allegation that the popular immigration enforcement policies embraced by Republican presidential candidates are “extreme” and have deeply damaged the GOP’s prospects among Hispanic Americans.

“The Democrats say that every four years, and its nonsense,” Jason Poblete, a Hispanic lawyer who formerly worked for the Republican National Committee, told The Daily Caller. GOP candidates can win up to 40 percent of the redistribution-minded Hispanic vote by treating them like other voters, he said.

“I don’t think there is anything these [Republican] candidates are saying that is not supported by at last 40 percent of Americans. … Some of the things they’re pushing have 80 percent support,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The charges of electoral damage were pushed by Democratic activists, including Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Bill Burton, a former Obama aide, who now runs an independent political group, Priorities USA Action.

Democrats see Hispanics, especially first-time voters, as a vital voting bloc in the November election. Their strategy is to spur Hispanic turnout for Obama to above 65 percent by portraying the GOP’s opposition to illegal immigration as bigotry towards the Hispanic population of 50 million.

Hispanics may provide a winning margin in several critical states, including Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia.

The United States now hosts an illegal immigrant population of roughly 11 million Hispanics. The population of non-Hispanic illegal immigrants is smaller.

“The strongly held views of all the Republicans are against everything that matters in the Hispanic community when it comes to domestic issues,” Wasserman Schultz told reporters at a Dec. 3, press conference in Des Moines, Iowa. Hispanics would have felt “revulsion … from the commentary and violence” during the GOP debates, she said. “I don’t mean physical violence,” she clarified.

“Republican candidates have managed to do permanent damage to their general election prospects [by embracing] a divisive and unworkable immigration policy,” Burton wrote, adding that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney “savaged [Speaker of the House Newt] Gingrich and [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry for advocating anything less than a draconian, systematic deportation of all undocumented immigrants.”

Democrats’ criticism was chiefly aimed at Romney, who announced his opposition to the DREAM Act, which would provide a partial amnesty to many younger illegal immigrants.

“If Romney becomes the Republican nominee, his position on immigration would be the most extreme of any presidential nominee of our time,” the DNC alleged in a Jan. 4 press release.

However, a November 2010 poll of 1,000 likely voters by Stein’s organization showed that roughly 40 percent of Americans supported the act, while roughly 55 percent opposed it. A month later, a more favorable set of questions in a Gallup poll yielded only 54 percent support and 42 percent opposition for the act.

“If Romney were calling for mass round-ups and deportations, that would be a minority position, but he doesn’t call for that — he’s for attrition through enforcement and E-Verify, which polls show has 80 percent support,” Stein told TheDC. E-Verify is a computer system that companies can use to verify prospective employees’ work eligibility.

Partly because of the stalled economy, that enforcement policy is popular among white working-class Americans, who provide a larger share of the swing vote than do Hispanics.

The Democrats’ hard-edged and questionable allegations are driven by their need to boost the Hispanic vote for President Barack Obama.

His ratings are in the 40s, far below the level he needs to win critical states like Florida and North Carolina, and other potentially winnable states like Nevada and Arizona.

Obama’s support among Hispanics reached 68 percent in 2008, but has since fallen in various polls to near 50 percent.

A December poll by the Pew Hispanic Center, however, showed that 68 percent of registered Latino voters prefer Obama to Romney, despite Obama’s 49 percent approval among Hispanics.

But that low approval rate may sharply reduce Hispanic turnout in November. (RELATED: Registration race for 2012 underway)

The low approval is based on Hispanics’ desire for a strong economy, rather than Obama’s failure to push for an amnesty .

The Pew poll, for example, said 33 percent of Hispanics rated immigration as an “extremely important” issue.

But jobs scored at 50 percent, followed by education, at 49 percent, and health care, at 45 percent. Taxes scored at 34 percent, as did the federal budget deficit, putting them above immigration’s score of 33 percent

Democrats and their allied ethnic lobbies, however, continue to use the issue of immigration to rally Hispanic votes around the Democratic party, said Poblete. “They create this racial boogieman and use it around election time,” he said.

“To win this battle in the long term, you have to resist the urge” to treat Hispanics as single-issue voters obsessed with immigration, he told TheDC. GOP candidates should avoid ethnic pandering, and can successfully woo mainstream Hispanics as they would other voters, with pro-growth, pro-education and pro-family policies, he continued.

Still, he warned the GOP can’t win a majority of Hispanics when running against a tax-and-spend Democratic candidate. “Immigrants are rational, and because they’re poorer than the average American, they seek large government programs,” which the Democrats are eager to provide, he concluded.

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