Riding the Anti-Immigration Wave: Short- and Long-Term Political Implications

latina voterDespite the mounting pressure (boycotts, legal challenges, protests) to repeal Arizona’s enforcement law (SB 1070), polls indicate that the majority of Americans support the law by almost two to one—and, at last count, as many as 17 other states are considering similar legislation. However, while it may seem advantageous for some in the GOP to use this anti-immigrant wave as political momentum for re-election, the long-term political impact may be larger and more harmful than they realize. Can the Republican Party (once the ‘Party of No,” then the “Party of Hell No” and now the “Party of Papers Please?”) really afford to further alienate the fastest-growing U.S. voting bloc—Latinos?

In a recent New York Times letter, the author draws a comparison between the Arizona’s enforcement law (SB 1070) and California’s 1994 anti-immigrant Proposition 187 (which was later found to be unconstitutional). Then Governor Pete Wilson supported Prop 187, which denied children of undocumented immigrants state-funded education and health programs. The author points out that California has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992, and that Republicans won California in six of the previous seven presidential contests prior to 1992, and five of the seven most recent gubernatorial races. Coincidence?

“There are a lot of similarities between what’s happening in Arizona and what happened in California in 1994,” said Sergio Bendixen, a political pollster and consultant specializing in the Hispanic vote. “That made California a deep blue state,” or Democratic, “and Republicans are making the same mistake now trying to benefit on anti-immigration.”

It doesn’t take a political scientist or a pollster to understand what happens when you alienate such a large and growing swathe of the American electorate. Latinos—who not surprisingly oppose Arizona’s law (70% opposing, 27% supporting)—made up 7.4% of the electorate in 2008, which has roughly double in the last 20 years, and is expected to continue to grow.

The letter continues:

There is widespread resentment among Latinos that they will be singled out as a result of this law, despite the insistence of Arizona officials that racial profiling is impermissible … Previous and earlier surveys by Mr. Bendixen, the pollster, show that almost two in three Latino voters have either a family member or friend who is an undocumented worker …He says Hispanics resent the suggestion that immigrants are more prone to criminality, an allegation that is contradicted by the vast majority of academic studies and statistics.

Recent evidence of the Latino vote can be seen in places like Colorado, where Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet pulled ahead of GOP hopeful Jane Norton. According to Public Policy Polling, the shift is due to Hispanic voters:

Bennet went from leading Norton by 12 points with Hispanic voters to a 21 point advantage. That large shift in a Democratic direction among Hispanics mirrors what we saw in our Arizona Senate polling last month- Rodney Glassman went from trailing John McCain by 17 points with them in September to now holding a 17 point lead.

seth hoyWhile Latinos’ cultural conservatism may overlap with Republicans’, it’s not likely that Latinos will forget 1) the Tea Party/Republican anti-immigrant rhetoric surrounding SB 1070; and 2) SB 1070 itself as well as ensuing copycat legislation. So, even though Republicans candidates who endorse SB 1070 (and similar legislation) might garner electoral support in the short-term, riding the anti-immigrant wave will more than likely drown them, and some in the Republican Party, out in the long-term.

Seth Hoy

Seth Hoy is a Communications and Research Associate at the Immigration Policy Center. Previous to joining IPC, Mr. Hoy worked at an academic publishing company and more recently as a staff writer/reporter for a city paper in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he covered multiple beats. Mr. Hoy has also volunteered as an educator in China and the Marshall Islands through Harvard University’s WorldTeach program. In addition to teaching students, Mr. Hoy organized and staffed professional development workshops for local educators. He received his B.A. in English with a minor in German from Boston College in 2003.

Republished with permission from Immigration Impact.


  1. MyLeftMind says

    Seth works for the Immigration Policy Center, an organization that tries to convince our government to increase immigration from Mexico and promotes giving amnesty to illegal aliens. Perhaps that’s why he dishonestly claims people are anti-immigration when they’re really against ILLEGAL immigration.

    The Immigration Policy Center also promotes the falsehood that illegal immigrants don’t take job from American workers. Just ask guys in the construction trades that should be making $30-$50/hour for skilled labor how hard it is to compete with illegal aliens willing to work for $6/hour under the table. They’re not just picking vegetables nowadays, they’re taking good jobs, depressing the entire economy and making the rich richer at the expense of our middle and working class citizens.

    Maybe someday Seth will have to get a real job and then he’ll start to understand what so many of America’s workers face every day.

    • Marshall says

      I agree with you on this one. I do not know where he got his facts on who like/dislikes the bill, but if 70% in AZ support it, then that has to be a lot of Hispanic voters from that state. If you ask 100,000 Hispanics who are not here under legal circumstances, then sure 70% of them may not like the bill. Most Hispanics are hard working and law abiding folks, only a very few are not. AZ is trying to get that very few under control..

    • Tom says

      IF you didn’t want workers getting paid $6 under the table, you wouldn’t be defending a bill which MAKES IT A CRIME to report employers who hire those workers!

      You pretend to want to punish the workers. But in reality you are supporting a law that protects the corporations that rake in profits by tossing out well paid American workers and replacing them with desperate undocumented workers.

      IF you really wanted to stop workers from coming here for jobs, you work for legislation that punished the fat cats who entice those workers to come here. But you don’t push for that legislation. So people logically conclude that you have a different motive – such as racism.

  2. SK says

    You’ve hit the nail right on the head, Seth. The real issue with crisis states are facing isn’t whether or not illegal immigration should be stopped; it’s whether or not Hispanic voters will be angry if we don’t give amnesty to the millions of lawbreakers crossing our borders.

    That’s why so many Americans are angry about policies that allow more immigrants from Mexico than any other country, and unwritten policies that allow illegal immigrants to live and work here. Because at some point, this fast growing, quickly reproducing immigrant population will vote as a block to get their needs met at the expense of people who were here long before them. That’s where the distrust comes from.

    Our immigrant heritage is one of the principal strengths of our nation. The multicultural mix from hundreds of years of immigration has resulted in a healthy, diverse population. But in the past, immigrants were willing to assimilate and learn English in order to be here. Today’s Latino immigrant population has refused to assimilate and has demanded the entire country accommodate their language. We already have to pay for duplicate government communication in Spanish in most areas of the country, we pay for extra teachers to teach Hispanic children in Spanish instead of in English, and Spanish speaking teachers are given priority in hiring in our nations schools.

    As you indicate in your article, it’s just a matter of time before the Hispanic immigrant population is large enough to out-vote all others and “get their way,” whatever they deem that to be.

  3. Fritz Dahmus says


    I don’t care who votes for who and why……only honest people will understand the anti-illegal-immigrant sentiment flowing throughout the country. Call it what it is please! It is not an anti-immigration sentiment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *