“A Demographic Death Spiral”: Immigration Reform Is Just One Of Many Reasons Why Hispanics Hate The GOP
In June, as the U.S. Senate debated comprehensive immigration reform, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voiced a commonly held theme among mainstream Republicans: After getting blown out among Hispanic and Latino voters in the 2012 elections, the GOP needed to get onboard with immigration reform, or face certain doom as America’s fastest growing minority continues to add more and more Democratic votes to the electorate.
“[I]f we don’t pass immigration reform, if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who you run in 2016,” Graham told NBC’s David Gregory at the time. “We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community in my view is pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who we run in my view.”
At the time, I disputed Senator Graham’s claim that immigration reform could get the GOP “back in good graces with the Hispanic community,” arguing that it was just one of many issues on which Hispanic voters fundamentally disagree with the Republican Party:
According to a wide-ranging Pew Research study from April 2012, Hispanics are politically predisposed to the Democratic Party. The study found that 30 percent of Hispanics describe themselves as “liberal,” compared to just 21 percent of the general population. Only 32 percent describe themselves as “conservative,” compared to 34 percent of the population at large.
Furthermore, Hispanics clearly favor a Democratic vision of government. When asked whether they would prefer a bigger government providing more services or a smaller government providing fewer services, they chose big government by a staggering 75 to 19 percent margin. By contrast, the general population favors a smaller government by a 48 to 41 percent.
In short: Partnering with Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform certainly wouldn’t hurt the Republican Party among Hispanic voters, but it would fall far short of being the political game changer that Republicans like Graham hope. At the end of the day, there is just too much distance between the GOP’s priorities and those of the Hispanic community to imagine a major political shift.
Four months later, this divide is more clear than ever. Not only has the Republican Party failed to move the ball forward on immigration reform — allowing it to languish in the House as the latest victim of the fictional “Hastert Rule” — but it has continued to take positions on other issues that are certain to keep pushing Hispanic voters away from the GOP.
The Republican-driven government shutdown, for example, had a disproportionately negative impact on Hispanic and Latino families. According to Leticia Miranda, senior policy advisor for the National Council of La Raza, 37 percent of children in Head Start programs and 42 percent of Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program participants are Latino. Additionally, about 24 percent of the federal employees who faced furloughs during the crisis were Hispanic. A few positive gestures on immigration won’t erase the damage the Republican Party did to these families.
Additionally, the Affordable Care Act — which Republicans vainly hoped to kill by shutting down the government — is actually quite popular within the Hispanic community. In September, a Pew Research survey found that 61 percent of Hispanic-Americans support the health care law — well above the 42 percent approval rating that the law held in the poll among the general population. This makes sense, considering that Hispanics are the most underinsured demographic in the nation, and some 10 million Hispanics could gain coverage under the law. Don’t expect them to forget that the Republican Party shut down the government in an effort to stop that from happening.
These are just two of several issues — including education and gun reform – on which polls find Hispanics siding strongly with Democratic governing priorities over the GOP’s. Ultimately, even if Republicans do shift their position and sign on to a comprehensive immigration reform deal, they cannot expect to rapidly gain support among the Hispanic community. At least not unless they fundamentally change a platform that has been specifically tailored to attract voters with a completely different set of values.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, October 31, 2013
“Motivated By Discriminatory Intent”: Justice Department Tells Texas It’s Voter Suppression Will Not Stand
In one week last August, federal courts found that Texas’ voter ID law and redistricting maps were discriminatory and violated the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court’s recent decision invalidating Section 4 of the VRA, which previously covered Texas, tragically wiped away those rulings. Now the Department of Justice is once again stepping in to fight for voting rights in the Lone Star State.
The DOJ announced today that it is objecting to Texas’ voter ID law under Section 2 of the VRA and will also seek to join a similar lawsuit against the state’s redistricting maps. Last month, DOJ asked a court in Texas to force the state to approve its voting changes with the federal government for a period of time under another provision of the VRA, Section 3, based on a finding of intentional discrimination in the restricting case. The federal courts found last year that Texas’ new maps for Congress and the state house were “enacted with discriminatory purpose.”
A federal court blocked Texas’ voter ID law last year for very good reason. As I wrote last August, here are the facts of the case:
The state admitted that between 603,892 to 795,955 registered in voters in Texas lacked government-issued photo ID, with Hispanic voters between 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely than whites to not have the new voter ID; to obtain one of the five government-issued IDs now needed to vote, voters must first pay for underlying documents to confirm their identity, the cheapest option being a birth certificate for $22 (otherwise known as a “poll tax”); Texas has DMV offices in only eighty-one of 254 counties in the state, with some voters needing to travel up to 250 miles to obtain a new voter ID. Counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the new voter ID (Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car).
The court objected to the law specifically because “(1) a substantial subgroup of Texas voters, many of whom are African American or Hispanic, lack photo ID; (2) the burdens associated with obtaining ID will weigh most heavily on the poor; and (3) racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.” Along with North Carolina, Texas has the harshest and most absurd voter ID law in the nation. Case in point: you can use a gun permit to vote but not a student ID. The state is also doing nothing to encourage people to get the supposedly “free” ID; a month after the Supreme Court’s ruling, only six people in Texas had obtained one, even though 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters lack the government-issued ID.
In its new court filing, DOJ contends that the voter ID law “will disproportionately impact Hispanic and African-American voters in the State of Texas, resulting in their being disenfranchised at a greater rate than Anglo voters.” The department says the law, known as SB 14, was “motivated by discriminatory intent” and “will have a discriminatory result.”
From the brief:
While the stated purpose of SB 14 was to ensure the integrity of elections, voter ID proponents cited virtually no evidence during or after enactment of SB 14 that in-person voter impersonation—the only form of election fraud addressed by the identification requirements of SB 14—was a serious problem or that the State’s then-existing identification procedures had failed to prevent in-person voter impersonation.
The State knew or should have known that Hispanic and African-American Texans disproportionately lack the forms of photo ID required by SB 14, as compared to their Anglo counterparts.
Nevertheless, supporters of voter ID in the Texas legislature made little to no effort to analyze the potential effect of photo ID requirements on minority voters and rejected amendments requiring investigation of the effect of SB 14.
The long history of voting discrimination in Texas makes the new law all-the-more worrisome. DOJ writes: “The State of Texas’s history of official racial discrimination against its African-American and Hispanic citizens is longstanding and well-documented. Federal intervention has been necessary to eliminate numerous devices intentionally used to restrict minority voting in Texas.” Texas has lost more Section 5 enforcement suits than any other state.
It will be much harder for the Department of Justice to block Texas’ voting changes under Section 2 of the VRA than it would have been under Section 5, but they’re smart to try. (See my piece on why Section 2 is no replacement for Section 5.) “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights,” Attorney General Eric Holder said today. “This represents the Department’s latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last.”
Since the Court’s decision, seven Southern states have rushed to pass or implement onerous new voting restrictions. North Carolina recently adopted the country’s worst voter suppression law (which voting rights groups are also challenging under Section 2), with local election boards escalating attacks on student voting hours after its passage by shutting down polling places at college campuses and preventing students from running for office. Since Holder has vowed more action to protect voting rights, there’s a very good chance that the Tarheel State will be next on his list.
By: Ari Berman, The Nation, August 22, 2013
For all who believe in colorblind justice — and want to see fewer African American and Hispanic men caught up in the system — there are two recent items of good news: a judge’s ruling ordering changes in New York’s “stop-and-frisk” policy and Attorney General Eric Holder’s initiative to keep nonviolent drug offenders out of prison.
First, stop-and-frisk. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is having a hissy fit over U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s finding that the policy amounted to “indirect racial profiling.” On his weekly radio show, he wouldn’t even say Scheindlin’s name, calling her “some woman” who knows “absolutely zero” about policing. In an op-ed for The Post, Bloomberg went so far as to accuse Scheindlin of being “ideologically driven.”
If and when Bloomberg calms down, I’d like to ask him the fundamental question posed — not in these words, of course — by Scheindlin’s ruling: Would it kill you to stop and frisk some white guys, too?
Blacks and Hispanics make up about half of New York City’s population but were targeted in 87 percent of the 532,911 “stops” last year under Bloomberg’s policy, which encourages police to detain and search individuals if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person “committed, is committing, or is about to commit” a crime. The reason most often cited for a stop is that the individual made “furtive” movements.
In nine out of 10 cases, the person is stopped — and sometimes frisked — but no evidence is found of any offense. Bloomberg argues that this kind of proactive policing actually prevents crime, and he credits stop-and-frisk for making New York the safest big city in the country.
I’m all for safe streets. I’m also aware that there is no consensus crediting stop-and-frisk with any impact on the crime rate, but I’m willing to accept the premise that an active police presence can deter criminals. My problem is that African Americans and Hispanics are being singled out disproportionately for these arbitrary searches.
Bloomberg says this is because most violent crime occurs in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, with black and Hispanic victims. By all means, police should continue walking and cruising these beats. But the numbers indicate that African Americans and Hispanics are being given too much stop-and-frisk scrutiny — and that whites are being given too little.
According to an analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union, blacks and Hispanics who are stopped are more likely than whites to be frisked. But just 2 percent of blacks and Hispanics who are frisked are discovered to be carrying weapons, while 4 percent of whites who are frisked have weapons. So if the aim is to find illegal guns, police should frisk more whites.
Why such fuss over a few minutes of inconvenience and indignity? Because blacks and Hispanics who come into contact with the criminal justice system for any reason are more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted than whites and are likely to serve longer prison sentences.
More than 26,000 stops were made last year for alleged marijuana offenses, for example; 61 percent were of African Americans and only 9 percent were of whites. But surveys show that whites are equally or more likely than blacks to be marijuana users. Police don’t find white potheads because they’re not looking for them.
We know that nationwide, according to federal figures, African Americans are four times as likely as whites to be arrested, charged and imprisoned for minor drug offenses. Once young black and Hispanic men enter the criminal justice system, too often they become trapped in a loop of incarceration, release, unemployment and recidivism.
On the national level, Holder has taken direct aim at this vicious cycle with the announcement last week that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders will no longer face federal charges that carry long mandatory prison sentences.
Holder is giving new instructions to federal prosecutors and also supporting legislation that has received bipartisan support in the Senate, where some conservatives now see excessive prison terms as a waste of money.
“We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and to rehabilitate, not merely to warehouse and to forget,” Holder said in a speech to the American Bar Association. President Obama is expected to make prison reform one of his priorities this fall.
Ending the presumption that African American and Hispanic men are beyond redemption would be a powerful legacy for the first black president and the first black attorney general to leave behind.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 19, 2013
When the Supreme Court dismantled a key provision of the Voting Rights Act last June, there were two small silver linings in this decision. The first was the possibility that Congress could revive the regime killed by the Court, where states with particularly poor records of racialized voter suppression must “preclear” their voting practices with the Justice Department or a federal court before those practices can take effect. The second potential silver lining is Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, which allows a state to be brought back under the preclearance requirement if a court finds that it engaged in “violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment justifying equitable relief.”
Now, however, Texas wants to destroy these two silver linings as well. And there is a fair chance that the conservative Supreme Court will allow them to do so.
Late last month, the Justice Department joined a Section 3 lawsuit claiming that federal supervision of Texas’ election practices should be reinstated in light of very recent examples of intentional race discrimination by Texas. Among other things, a federal court found that Texas “consciously replaced many of [a] district’s active Hispanic voters with low-turnout Hispanic voters in an effort to strengthen the voting power of [the district's] Anglo citizens.” These, the Justice Department explained, were “violations of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment” justifying federal supervision.
Texas’ response to the Justice Department does not simply reject the idea that it should be subject to preclearance, it calls upon the courts to declare virtually any preclearance regime unconstitutional. According to Texas, the Supreme Court’s decision hobbling the Voting Rights Act “threw out Congress’s reauthorization of a preclearance regime because the legislative record failed to show ‘anything approaching the ‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination that faced Congress in 1965, and that clearly distinguished the covered jurisdictions from the rest of the Nation at that time.’” In other words, Texas wants a federal court order saying that any effort to reinstate the Voting Rights Act in Texas is unconstitutional unless Texas transforms into Mississippi at the height of the Jim Crow era.
And they may very well succeed in getting this order. While Texas’ theory cannot be squared with the text of the Fifteenth Amendment — which provides that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” and gives Congress “power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation” — it is not that hard to square with the Supreme Court’s recent decision. Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion does indeed contain language suggesting that only something “approaching the ‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination that faced Congress in 1965″ can permit a preclearance regime now. The fact that this language flies in the face of the Constitution is not likely to bother the five conservative justices who already signed onto it once.
As a final act of chutzpah, Texas also claims that it cannot be subject to preclearance because “Hispanic citizens in Texas registered to vote at higher rates” than Hispanics in other states not subject to federal supervision under the Voting Rights Act. That very well be true, but it’s also besides the point. The thrust of the Justice Department’s lawsuit is that Texas intentionally drew its district lines so that white votes would count more and Hispanic votes would count less. In other words, the whole purpose of these lines was to make sure that it didn’t matter if Hispanic voters registered at high rates because their voting power would still be diluted by gerrymandering. It’s like a basketball referee claiming that it doesn’t matter that he’s not counting all the points scored by one team because that team is taking more shots.
By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, August 9, 2013
“Republicans, All Talk, No Action”: No House Alternative, No Conference Committee, No Attempt At Finding Common Ground
Without a hint of humor or shame, the Republican National Committee issued a press release this morning accusing President Obama of being “All Talk, No Action” when it comes to the “Hispanic Community.” No, seriously, that’s what the RNC said.
Someone at the RNC’s communications office probably should have thought this one through a little more, since, when it comes to issues important to Latino voters, it’s the lack of “action” from congressional Republicans that’s proving to be so problematic.
Indeed, when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, which is facing long odds in the face of fierce opposition from the House GOP, the question is whether these Republican lawmakers are prepared to do anything on the issue. National Review‘s Jonathan Strong reports they may not (via Greg Sargent).
Speaker John Boehner wants to pass a series of small bills dealing with immigration reform piece by piece, but it’s not clear whether 218 votes, the required number for passage, will be there for any of them.
Top Democrats are already signaling they’ll oppose the various bills being prepared by the GOP leadership, and conservative Republicans, especially, are wary. Many Republicans will prefer to simply vote against any bill, even if they agree with elements of the legislation, just to prevent Boehner from going to conference with the Senate. Such a conference, many conservatives fear, could lead to a consensus bill that includes amnesty.
When it comes to the future of the policy, this is obviously important. House Republican leaders don’t intend to consider the bipartisan Senate bill, but they also don’t want to do nothing. Boehner & Co. figure they can at least put a positive face on failure by instead taking up elements of immigration reform piecemeal.
But Strong, whose sourcing among Republicans on Capitol Hill is excellent, is reporting that rank-and-file House Republicans aren’t even willing to go this far. Indeed, they’ll even oppose measures they like for fear that they’ll go to a conference committee and become slightly more progressive after negotiations with the Senate Democratic majority.
It’s easier, they figure, to just kill every element of immigration reform and hope the electoral consequences aren’t too severe.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, there’s a good reason for that. This is the strategy outlined just last week by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and National Review editor Rich Lowry — two of the most influential Republican voices in media — who co-signed an editorial urging House Republicans to put “a stake through” immigration reform’s “heart.”
More specifically, they urged GOP lawmakers should do literally nothing on the issue — no House alternative, no conference committee, no attempt at finding “common ground.”
It appears the advice was well received.
And so this once again puts the Speaker in an awkward position, as it sinks in that many in his own caucus prefer inaction — and he’s already committed to the so-called “Hastert Rule” that effectively gives these far-right House members a veto power over which bills reach the floor.
What was that the RNC was saying about “All Talk, No Action”?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 16, 2013