The Republican Party could lose a lot of House seats in 2014 and 2016 – including a few in California – as well as the next presidential election if it stands in the way of comprehensive immigration reform, according to a political research firm’s new report.
The researchers at Seattle-based Latino Decisions call it the “Prop. 187 Effect,” after California’s 1994 ballot measure to bar illegal immigrants from using health care, public education, and other social services – a measure their report says drove the ever-expanding Latino electorate into the Democratic Party’s arms.
“Even in a gerrymandered Congress, the Latino vote is going to remake the landscape if we experience a national phenomenon around immigration similar to the Prop. 187 effect,” said Latino Decisions principal Gary Segura. “Not only does our research show Latinos still hold the GOP responsible for Prop. 187, we see that they’re poised to significantly shift the vote toward Democratic Congressional representation in districts nationwide.”
On a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, Segura noted 93 percent of all Latinos under the age of 18 are U.S. citizens, so the nation’s Latino electorate will double over the next 18 years even if not one new Latino immigrant enters the country.
The report identifies 24 House districts now held by Republcians where the Latino vote alone has a strong chance of swinging the outcome of 2014 elections, and 20 more GOP districts where the size of the Latino electorate exceeds the incumbent’s 2012 victory margin.
Among districts the report deems most susceptible to a Latino swing vote are California’s 10th, represented by Jeff Denham, R-Modesto; 25th, represented by Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita; and 31st, represented by Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga.
A poll conducted by Latino Decisions in July found 58 percent of Latino voters will be personally angry if the House blocks an immigration reform bill with a pathway to citizenship, and 69 percent of Latino voters would place blame for a lack of comprehensive immigration reform upon Republicans, while only 13 percent would blame Democrats and 11 percent would blame both parties equally.
Hector Barajas, a longtime Republican strategist who earlier this year co-founded the GOP polling and messaging firm Latino Edge Research, acknowledged later Thursday that it’s “important to recognize that some races would be more affected than others if they do not correctly engage their Latino electorate.”
“That being said, not changing the same narrative that Republicans as a whole are opposed to immigration reform will allow Democrats to continue with their successful strategy of attack candidates with an R behind them,” he said. “In the end, it will be up to the individual campaigns to demonstrate to the Latino electorate that they are not the ‘Bad Guy’ in the movie.”
President Obama said Thursday that with the government shutdown over and the debt-limit crisis averted, “we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.” A bipartisan bill already passed by the Senate would beef up border security and modernize the system while ensuring “everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities,” he said, adding economists estimate the bill would bring $1.4 trillion in new economic growth over the next 20 years.
“The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do. And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it,” he said, inviting the House to offer any improvements. “But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years. This can and should get done by the end of this year.”