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George Bush made a 10% gain in Hispanic voters during his re-election bid in 2004; it is more than likely that the gain would reverse itself into a loss for Republicans come this November.
This time around, pledging to step up immigrant crackdowns throughout the year, the Bush Administration is risking a political fallout with Hispanic voters. The lame-duck President has nothing to lose but it doesn’t bode well for the non-teflon Republican Party and John McCain’s bid for Presidency.
Regardless of the fact that immigration enforcers claim to be anti-(illegal) immigration and not immigration per se, ICE actions and political rhetoric is nonetheless perceived as just anti-immigrant. And perfectly legal immigrants are being harmed in this so-called anti-(illegal) immigrant climate. Take a look at the Congress economic stimulus package to disallow tax rebates to undocumented workers; it ended up affecting many legal residents who filed joint tax returns with their spouses without social security numbers. In counties like Prince Williams that are now policing immigration, even legal immigrants who perceive hatred and hostility are moving and taking their businesses elsewhere.
The Latino vote is crucial, especially in swing states like Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Fostering a climate that is heavily perceived as anti-immigrant would undoubtedly turn-off many Hispanic voters, who are the majority of the minority ethnic population and feel targeted due to increased crackdowns and legislation.
If the Bush Administration is merely playing politics and want voters to look past McCain’s reformist attitude to immigration, it is taking an ill-calculated risk. John McCain would most likely win the votes of the rabid anti-immigrant crowd regardless of his flip-flop on immigration issues. But he surely risks losing the gains made with Hispanic voters and other immigrant groups in 2004 if the anti-immigrant hysteria continues with inaction from Congress on immigration reform.
Americans usually poll vehemently against illegal immigration in surveys but it hardly translate into votes at the polling booth. It ranks as a seventh major concern, far behind issues like the economy, war and healthcare. The immigration issue is clearly not an election winner. But it can become a major spoiler for Republicans come November.