California Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner has been pulling out every stop to present himself as a conservative immigration hawk and convince California voters that his opponent, former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, is “no real Republican.” His most recent effort consists of a television ad which alleges that, by supporting a path to legalization that would require undocumented immigrants to go to the back of the line, pay a fine, and learn English, Whitman and President Obama both support a policy of “amnesty.”
Poziner’s research team may have missed Whitman affirmatively declaring herself “100 percent against amnesty, no exceptions.” They also may want to look “amnesty” up in the dictionary. The term implies that someone is pardoned for his or her crimes without penalty or acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Both President Obama and Whitman have stated that they support a tough and earned path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, but that’s not amnesty. For that matter, Whitman also shares a similar view with many conservative leaders including Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, former President George W. Bush, and even tea party strategist Dick Armey.
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Tony Quinn, a GOP political commentator, has described Poizner’s anti-immigrant race baiting as “political suicide”:
California in 2010 is not Alabama in 1958. For one thing, immigration ranks low on the GOP issue totem pole, well behind taxes, bad schools, poor roads and the mad hatter state budget mess. Immigration into California has slowed in the past decade because of the poor economy, making immigrants less of a target. And California voters don’t believe the politicians will do anything about it anyway.
But Poizner has accomplished one thing; he’s made himself unelectable in November, and further damaged his own party. […] Poizner’s done; it’s time to stick a fork in him, and business and responsible Republicans ought to lead the way.
As of 2007, 43.6% of immigrants (or 4.4 million people) in California were naturalized U.S. citizens who can vote. Latinos meanwhile comprised 21.4% of California voters in the 2008 elections, and Asians 9.7%. Meanwhile, Quinn also points out that white voters are “the most liberal voters in California.”
A businessman like Poizner should also be sensitive to the fact that California could risk losing $164.2 billion in expenditures, $72.9 billion in economic output, and approximately 717,000 jobs if it removed all of its undocumented immigrants. A study by the University of Southern California found that putting California’s 1.8 million undocumented Latino immigrants on a path to legalization would generate $16 billion annually.
Crossposted with permission from the Wonk Room.