11/09/2010 03:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

About That Latino Firewall...

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Immigration Insider | Election 2010

Last week, the Latino vote saved the Senate for the Democrats—surprising pundits, pollsters and right-wing fearmongers alike. Under a GOP House of Representatives, immigration enforcement will be the priority, not immigration solutions. Will Sen. Harry Reid keeps his pre-election promise to move the DREAM Act during the lame-duck?  After the way Latinos voted in Nevada, we think he will. 

Welcome to Immigration Insider | 1 Week After Election 2010

“Latino firewall” saves the West (and the Senate) for the Democrats. There’s a reason that pundits and journalists, some of whom hadn’t said a peep about Latino voters since they wrote about “low enthusiasm” back in September, have taken hold of this narrative—the evidence is just too overwhelming to ignore. To recap: In Nevada, Sharron Angle’s gamble that she could indulge in cheap immigrant-bashing because Latinos wouldn’t turn out at the polls backfired, as strong Latino turnout for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed him to victory. In Colorado, Latinos cast decisive votes in Senator Michael Bennet’s similarly unexpected victory over Ken Buck. In California and Washington, thanks to a strong GOTV effort, the Latino and immigrant vote kept Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray (both strong supporters of immigration reform and the DREAM Act) in office. And Latinos helped sink the gubernatorial campaigns of Meg Whitman in California and Tom Tancredo in Colorado. The upshot? A Senate that’s still in Democratic hands and a difficult electoral map for the Republican nominee in 2010. 

More about the difference Latinos made in key races:

Why the polls got it wrong. After Tuesday, a lot of observers found themselves asking why did the pre-election polls in the Nevada and Colorado Senate races get it so wrong—and underestimated Democrats’ margins of victory in other states. As Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions pointed out to Nate Silver, most polls, by under-representing Latinos who prefer to speak Spanish, systematically underestimated how enthusiastic Latinos were about this election—and how likely they were to vote for Democrats. Furthermore, the same problems that made these pre-election polls so unreliable are common in national exit polls, which “badly missed” the Latino vote last Tuesday. It may take a while before we know precisely how big a role Latinos played in last week’s election.

But what about voter fraud? Remember last week, when Republican candidates and activists were raising the specter of massive voter fraud by undocumented immigrants? Funny how there haven’t been any reports of that, have there?

And what about these new Latino Republicans? Republicans have been holding up victories by Marco Rubio (FL-Sen), Susana Martínez (NM-Gov) and Brian Sandoval (NV-Gov) as evidence that their party can reach out to Latinos. But the numbers show that of the three, only Rubio was supported by a majority of Latino voters in his state—and Florida’s Cuban-American population makes its Latino electorate more Republican than most. Rubio won 78% of the Cuban-American vote and 40% of the non-Cuban Latino vote—in a race in which both of his opponents gave his tougher immigration stances a free pass.  In New Mexico and Nevada, Martínez’ and Sandoval won historic victories, but the majority of Latino voters backed their Democratic opponents.

What’s next? In the Senate… Before the election, Harry Reid promised he’d bring the DREAM Act to the Senate floor in the lame-duck session. Will he support Latinos in December after they supported him in November?  We’re counting on it and gearing up for it.

…and in the House… The GOP takeover of the House makes Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) the new head of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) the new chair of the Immigration Subcommittee. Both congressmen have been standard-bearers for “attrition through enforcement” (read: the mass expulsion of undocumented immigrants), and they’ve promised that immigration will be their top priority. So we can look forward to a host of bills driving up the pace and cost of immigration enforcement coming out of the House of Representatives. But it’s unlikely these two will be able to come up with anything that fixes the broken immigration system they helped create. Not to mention that it’s unlikely that Lamar Smith and Steve King will help repair the GOP’s image problem among Latino voters.  Some are already planning 2012 Spanish language ad campaigns featuring these two as the face of the Republican Party!


@fivethirtyeight Did Polls Underestimate Democrats' Latino Vote?

@GrayRiv: NYT: Latinos Reached Milestones in 2010 Midterm Races:

@jorgeramosnews: It is very important that Obama and Republicans discuss the #dreamact when they meet Nov 18th. Last chance in lame-duck session

@economicrefugee: California, Colorado, Nevada Latinos crush GOP via @DailyKos' @markos

@LatinaLista: Cool news coming from Connecticut — move to get undoc students in-state tuition. They want to pass a state version of DREAM Act

@ImmPolicyCenter: AZ State Sen Russell Pearce Continues #Immigration Crusade Despite Budget Crisis

@maneegee: Constitution = Double-Ply TP // RT @azcapitoltimes: GOP lawmakers: We'll sponsor Pearce's birthright-citizenship bill

@GabyPacheco1: What It Will Take to Win the Latino Vote In 2012 - COLORLINES @georgelemiuex


---> Immigration Insider is a weekly immigration update by America's Voice.

Cross-posted at America's Voice and Daily Kos.