LATINO VOICES
02/04/2013 11:00 am ET

House Republicans Come From Whiter, Less Latino Districts Than Democrats, Likely Affecting Immigration Reform Debate

Republicans in the House of Representatives come from districts that are much whiter than those of their Democratic counterparts, according to recent news reports.

That demographic feature of U.S. politics will likely impact the immigration debate, since the Republican majority in the House faces less pressure to cultivate the growing Latino vote, which overwhelming supports reform and a path to citizenship.

Some 131 House Republicans come from districts that are more than 80 percent white, the National Journal reports. That compares to just 31 Democrats elected from such districts.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data cited by The New York Times, on average, the 232 House Republicans represent districts composed of 11 percent Latinos. The 200 Democrats, by contrast, come from districts where Latinos make up an average of 23 percent of the population.

More politicians have aligned behind immigration reform since President Barack Obama walloped Mitt Romney among Latino voters, 71 percent to 27 percent. Romney performed more poorly among Latinos than any candidate since Bob Dole's unsuccessful bid in 1996. A bipartisan group of senators is preparing a proposal expected to include a pathway to citizenship for the country's estimated 11.1 million undocumented immigrants.

The greatest opposition to a deal is expected from House Republicans, some of whom suspect that reform including a pathway to citizenship would result in the creation of more Latino voters who will heavily lean Democrat. According to Lehigh Valley's Morning Call, immigration hardliner Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) said last week:

I hope politics is not at the root of why we're rushing to pass a bill. Anyone who believes that they're going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken... The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. They will become Democrats because of the social programs they'll depend on.

In fact, Latinos use less than their fair share of government benefits. According to a study released last year by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 64 percent of the population in 2010 and received 69 percent of the entitlement benefits. In contrast, Hispanics made up 16 percent of the population but received 12 percent of the benefits, less than their proportionate share -- likely because they are a younger population and also because immigrants, including many legal immigrants, are ineligible for various benefits.

White, non-Hispanics will no longer be a majority in the United States by 2043, according to Census projections published last year. That could pose a problem for the GOP, if the party does not diversify its voter base.

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