Since the 2012 election, there’s a story we’ve heard over and over about Republicans and the Latino vote. After spending years bashing immigrants, the party got hammered among this increasingly vital demographic group this election cycle, whereupon the party’s more pragmatic elements woke up and realized if they don’t convince Latinos the GOP isn’t hostile to them, they could make it impossible to win presidential elections. They’ve got one shot on immigration reform. Pass it, and they can stanch the bleeding. Kill it, and they lock in their dreadful performance among Latinos for generations.
This story is mostly true. But I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t already too late for the GOP to win Latinos over. It’s going a little far to suggest that Latinos could become the equivalent of African Americans, giving 90 percent or more of their votes to Democrats in every election. But is it possible that so much damage has already been done that even if immigration reform passes, Republicans won’t see any improvement in their standing among Latinos?
Since we’re talking about what might happen in the future, this is all speculative, and it’s a little ridiculous to predict that anything that happens now will hold for “generations.” One generation, maybe, but nobody can say what the political landscape will look like in 30 or 40 years. But let’s think about how this is likely to play out in the near term.
If immigration reform fails because of anti-immigrant sentiment from the GOP’s right wing, that’s obviously a disaster for them. But even if it passes, that might be only a marginally better outcome. The debate itself could be making things worse by giving the anti-reform forces a bigger platform to express their views, even if other elements of the party are trying to put on a friendlier face. And if a bill does pass, who’s going to get the credit? Barack Obama, of course. It’ll be trumpeted in the media as the major legislative accomplishment of his second term (either the first, or the only, depending on how the next few years go), and much of the story will be about him for no reason other than that he’s the president and that’s how these things work; the president is the protagonist of most of the stories told about what happens in Washington, whether he deserves to be or not.
Furthermore, the legislation will almost certainly pass with the votes of almost every Democrat in both houses of Congress, and over the opposition of most Republicans. It doesn’t need many Republican votes, and for every Republican officeholder who wants to see it pass, there are probably two or three who feel enough pressure from the party’s right wing that they’ll end up voting against it, if for no other reason than to forestall a primary challenge— the primary thing every Republican member of Congress fears these days.
So how is this debate going to look to the public as the vote approaches? On one side you’ll have Obama and the Democrats, along with a few Republicans; on the other side you’ll have a whole lot of Republicans, some of whom will no doubt continue to say offensive things about immigrants. For good measure, many people will assume, whether it’s true or not, that the Democrats are sincere in their support of immigration reform, while the Republicans who join them are doing it just to save their political skins. When it’s over, Obama will declare victory, and everyone will know that it happened because the intransigent Republicans were defeated. Some conservative Republicans running in primaries around the country will still see immigrant-bashing as a potentially fruitful campaign tactic, giving voters the occasional helpful reminder about where much of the party stands. And in the next election (and the one after that, and the one after that), the default assumption among Latino voters will continue to be that your average Republican despises and distrusts them. That isn’t to say that any individual Republican candidate can’t overcome that assumption and win the votes of significant numbers of Latinos, but it will be a very difficult thing to do, and most will fail when they try.
So at this point, it certainly looks like the two potential outcomes are that conservative Republicans succeed in killing immigration reform, which is disastrous for the GOP, or it passes, which is only a little bit better. If they’re going to change their image among Latino voters, it’s going to have to be a long-term project.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 30, 2013
“Arizona Versus The Right To Vote”: A Law Whose Sole Purpose Is To Disenfranchise Poor And Minority Voters
As part of a broader anti-immigration initiative in 2004, Arizona passed Proposition 200, a law requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering to vote. One person affected by this law was Jesus Gonzalez, a custodian and naturalized American citizen who twice had his registration rejected by the state. Arizona couldn’t verify his naturalization number and erroneously identified his driver’s license as belonging to a non-citizen. Gonzalez’s case has reached the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments about the constitutionality of Proposition 200 on Monday. The Court should rule that Arizona’s burdensome requirements are inconsistent with federal law and therefore illegal.
The Supreme Court has dealt with Republican legislators’ attempts to suppress voting before. In a highly dubious 2008 decision, the Supreme Court found that an Indiana statute—requiring a show of ID before hitting the ballot box—was not unconstitutional on its face, although it left open the possibility that the statute might be unconstitutional as applied. (The Indiana law was ultimately struck down by the Indiana Court of Appeals.) Because the Arizona law concerns voter registration, it is subject to another form of legal challenge.
In 1993, Congress passed the National Mail Voter Registration (or “Motor Voter”) Act, which among other things created a federal form that would streamline the registration requirements. The law mandates that “each State shall accept and use” the federal form. As the story of Jesus Gonzalez highlights, Prop 200 placed an additional set of requirements on Arizonans before they are able to register. The key question presented by the challenge to Prop 200 is whether the Arizona requirements are inconsistent with federal law. If so, because of the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the Constitution, the Arizona law is “pre-empted” by the Motor Voter Act and is invalid.
The case for pre-emption in this case is clear and persuasive. The statute unequivocally requires states to use the federal form. To permit states to add additional burdens on registration is inconsistent with the text and purpose of the statute, which was designed to create a streamlined and uniform process. Determining qualifications for people voting for federal offices is a clear federal power. Justice Kagan observed at the oral argument that the Arizona law “essentially creates a new set of requirements and a new form.” Prop 200, therefore, is at war with the federal statute whose purpose was to create a clear process for registration. As the Obama administration noted in its amicus brief, to uphold the Arizona law “would thwart the central purpose of [Motor Voter]: to streamline the process of registering to vote for federal office.”
Justice Scalia, while somewhat more restrained than in the previous oral argument dealing with an Arizona law that conflicted with federal authority, was typically candid about his political support for the objectives of the Arizona vote suppression initiative. Leaving little doubt about his sympathy for the Arizona law, he mocked the federal registration requirements, which make it a criminal offense to misrepresent one’s eligibility to vote. “So it’s under oath. Big deal.” Scalia snorted. “If you’re willing to violate the voting laws, I suppose you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.”
Scalia’s arguments are problematic for two reasons. First, whether or not Scalia thinks the federal requirements are sufficient is beside the point—Article I Section IV gives Congress the power to “make or alter” state voting regulations, so the judgment about what requirements are sufficient rests with Congress, not with Arizona or the Supreme Court. And even on its own terms his argument that the threat of a perjury conviction represents an insufficient deterrent is unpersuasive. Arizona provides no evidence that this kind of voter fraud is a problem. The problems of individual voter fraud the bill allegedly addresses are essentially non-existent, and even in theory it is impossible for individual fraudulent voters to alter the course of an election. And, in particular, it is extremely implausible to think that the illegal immigrants the bill targets are likely to risk attracting the attention of federal authorities by committing perjury on a form submitted to the federal government. It is hard to avoid the conclusion of one Arizona legislator that “was never intended to combat voter fraud. It was intended to keep minorities from voting.”
Scalia also mocked the idea that the additional Arizona requirements represented a substantial burden. “Enclosing your driver’s license number is that immense barrier?” he sarcastically asked Patricia Millet, the attorney representing the challengers. But the data proves Scalia is dead wrong to dismiss the extent of vote suppression caused by the initiative. “The district court,” Millet pointed out, “found that 31,550 people were rejected from voting because of Proposition 200.” This is a serious additional burden which shows that the inconsistency with federal law is not merely formal. The vote fraud Scalia and other Republicans are purportedly concerned with is imaginary, but the burdens created by the Arizona law are quite real.
Arizona’s latest attempt to interfere with federal law is particularly problematic given that it concerns the right to vote. Voting is a field in which greater uniformity is a particular virtue. The fact that standards for registration and voting vary not only between states but within states represents “local control” fetishism at its most inane. State and local administration of voting isn’t merely inefficient; the purpose and effect of this decentralization has been to disenfranchise poor and/or minority voters. In this case, Congress appropriately acted to create more uniform and streamlined standards for vote registration. Arizona should not be allowed to contradict federal law and invite other states to similarly disenfranchise voters.
By: Scott Lemieux, The American Prospect, March 19, 2013
Alberto Gonzales, the first Latino United States Attorney General, said on Thursday that Mitt Romney needs to do more to connect with the Latino community. In an interview with Yahoo News, Gonzales questioned whether Romney has really made an effort to reach out to Latinos, even as the campaign has tried to woo Latino voters:
“I think that members of our party have spoken about this in a way that’s not only anti-immigration but anti-Hispanic, and I think that’s harmful to the long term future of the party,” Gonzales said [...]
“Policy is important, but the tone is equally important,” he says. “He has to find some way to make a personal connection to the Hispanic community. Bush was able to do that. … Many of us had the sense that Bush understood us. He believed in us and we believed in him,” he said.
“I think [Bush] was able to make a personal connection, and I’m not sure that Governor Romney has done that yet.”
Romney’s position on issues important to Latinos, including the DREAM ACT and overall immigration policy, tend to differ from those of the majority of the Latino community. Gonzalez, on the other hand, is an advocate for some version of the DREAM Act and opposes Arizona’s SB 1070.
The former attorney general also reiterated that he did not believe Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the prominent Latino vice presidential favorite, is ready to be president, saying, “What I try to emphasize is that I think a presidential nominee should look [for] someone who can be president on day one.”
By: Annie-Rose Strasser, Think Progress, June 7, 2012
Arizona’s frustration with our nation’s dysfunctional immigration system is understandable. But its restrictive “show me your papers” immigration law is unconstitutional and un-American.
The U.S. Constitution protects and safeguards our most fundamental rights—the rights that are the bedrock of our freedom and democracy. Each of us has the right to be treated equally and fairly, and to not be discriminated against on the basis of the color of our skin or the accent with which we may speak.
Arizona’s law violates these precious Constitutional protections. Already, in Arizona and other states with “show me your papers” laws, U.S. citizens who don’t happen to carry proof of their birth in the United States in their back pockets are being treated with suspicion and are facing arrest and detention until they can convince law enforcement authorities of their citizenship. This racial profiling and assault on personal freedom and security is both unconstitutional and un-American.
The U.S. Constitution was also written to safeguard and protect our fundamental character as a nation of united states. In areas where it is important for states to determine their own policies, the Constitution protects states’ rights. But in areas where it is important that our nation speak with one voice, the Constitution prohibits states from taking matters into their own hands.
Immigration is one of those areas involving our country’s relations with foreign countries and nationals where our nation needs to speak with one voice. Just as states cannot sign their own treaties with, or declare war on, other countries, so too states cannot enact their own immigration laws. If they could, the resulting patchwork of 50 different state laws would lead to confusion, conflict, and chaos.
Other nations would retaliate and treat U.S. citizens unfairly as they travel, work and study abroad. Citizens and immigrants alike would flee from one state to another, seeking freedom from discriminatory laws. Businesses would leave states where their workers and visiting foreign managers were subject to intrusive police demands for “papers.”
The United States could not survive as two nations—one slave, one free. Neither can the United States accommodate two sets of immigration laws—one that requires the Department of Homeland Security to enforce the laws that Congress enacts, and the other that requires all of us, citizens and immigrants alike, to “show me your papers.”
By: Jeanne Butterfield, Special Counsel, Raben Group, Published in U. S. News and World Report, April 23, 2012
You thought the healthcare case created a storm. Well you haven’t seen anything yet. Next week the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law. Any case that involves race creates political fireworks.
The Arizona law is a constitutional nightmare.
One part of the law allows the police to hold people arrested indefinitely until their immigration status is verified. What it means is that American citizens who look like illegal immigrants because they have brown skin and who are suspected of a crime can be held indefinitely without trial. This part of the law violates the due process clause in the Fifth Amendment and the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment. SB 1070 flushes fundamental American civil liberties down the toilet.
The Arizona law states that “the intent of the law is attrition through enforcement to deter the unlawful entry and presence of illegal aliens.” Well, you have a constitutional problem right there. Article I, Section 8 the Constitution clearly gives Congress, not the states the power “to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization.”
The state says it had to act since the feds haven’t acted. There are several problems with this argument.
The reason that the founders gave Congress the power to regulate immigration is that there would be chaos if each of the 50 states did the same thing and created their own immigration policies.
For another thing, the logic of the Arizona argument is the same thing as saying that it or any other state could declare war against another country if Congress didn’t. Article 1, Section 8 not only gives Congress the power to set rules of naturalization, it also gives it the power to declare war. And why not let the states instead of Congress have the Article I power to coin money. Of course that would lead to economic disaster. I don’t know about you but I don’t have the math skills to figure out the exchange rate for financial transactions between Maryland and Virginia.
Finally, the state’s argument that the feds are not acting is just wrong. Illegal immigration has slowed steadily in the last few years. There has been a large increase in the number of Border Patrol agents stationed on the Mexican border. And the Obama administration has deported record numbers of illegal immigrants convicted of crimes. But supporters of SB 1070 just want to overlook the facts so they can sustain their prejudices.
George W. Bush and Barack Obama proposed a solution to the problem that doesn’t even violate the Constitution. These presidential proposals would intensify enforcement of immigration efforts at the Mexican border, penalize employers who hire undocumented workers, and create a path to citizenship for people in the U.S illegally. Congress failed to act on either of the proposed laws. Even though the two presidential proposals are similar, several GOP senators who supported the Bush proposal now oppose the Obama bill. Go figure.
After the court issues rules on the Arizona law in June, the justices should disperse as quickly as possible because whatever they do, there will be a lot of very unhappy people out there.
By: Brad Bannon, Washington Whispers, U. s. News and World Report, April 19, 2012