President Obama’s historic reelection accomplished what years of advocacy, opposition and political gridlock couldn’t. The GOP’s crushing defeat at the elections has left the Republican Party with little choice but to face the reality that this nation’s broken immigration system must be fixed and it must be fixed now.
Minority voters turned out in record numbers and helped propel Pres. Obama to victory. Almost three-fourths of the Asian American vote went to Obama, as did 93% of the African American vote. More than 70% of Hispanics picked Obama over Gov. Mitt Romney, whose 27% share of the Latino vote was even less than that received by Sen. John McCain in 2008.
Exit polls showed that 77% of Hispanic voters believe that undocumented immigrants should be given a chance to apply for legal status. Among all voters polled, 65% agreed that undocumented immigrants should have legal status and only 28% favored deportation.
These numbers have caused an about-face in immigration among the Republican Party’s members and some of its supporters.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, for one, said in an interview that immigration reform is an issue that has been around far too long and that a “comprehensive approach is long overdue”. He expressed optimism that he, the president and others “can find a common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”
A former governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, views the need for immigration reform as an issue of good policy. In a television interview, he said that he believes that in today’s global market for labor and capital, the U.S. needs not only Ph.D.s in science and technology but also skilled and unskilled workers.
Even conservative talk show host Sean Hannity has weighed in on immigration reform. Saying that he has “evolved” on the issue, he now supports giving a pathway to citizenship to law-abiding immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a long time.
This position is in line with that of his boss, Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, who had expressed bewilderment over Gov. Romney’s refusal to reach out to Latino voters, whom Murdoch said were “naturally Republicans”. After the elections, Murdoch sent out a tweet calling for “sweeping, generous immigration reform”.
Many believe that Gov. Romney’s chances were hurt by the divisive and anti-immigrant rhetoric he adopted early on in his campaign. It will be remembered that during the primaries, he suggested that illegal immigrants should “self-deport” to their home countries. He also promised his supporters that he would veto the DREAM Act.
Later on he tried to soften his tone on immigration. He said that he supports the military service portion of the proposed DREAM Act. He also promised not to deport individuals who received approvals under Pres. Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program but said that he would replace it with a long-term solution. The DREAM Act and DACA were initiatives that enjoyed popular support among minorities.
Minorities now make up 36% of this country’s population. Given the major role that this demographic played in the last elections, politicians should rightly assess their positions on matters that are important to this growing electorate.
Last September, President Obama said that his greatest failure was not passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation in his first term. He vowed to push for immigration reform in 2013 if he is reelected.
Once again, immigration reform is at the forefront of U.S. politics. The message sent from the polls was loud and clear and politicians can only ignore it at their own peril.