President Barack Obama, left, and Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner, right, may be more inclined to work on immigration reform after the record support from Latinos towards President Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election. (Photo : Reuters)
After a record-setting number of Latinos turned up at the polls in key swing states across the U.S. on Election Night, lawmakers in Washington look like they might finally be moving towards making the hot-button issue of immigration reform a priority.
The Hispanic vote played a major role in President Barack Obama's Nov. 6 victory that secured another four-year term for the president. According to Latino Decisions, which measures Hispanic voting data in the U.S., Latinos turned out to give Obama a record-breaking 75 percent of their votes nationwide, helping him shatter Bill Clinton's 72 percent benchmark among Latino voters in the 1996 election.
Those margins were especially huge in key battleground swing states like Florida, which has roughly 2.1 million Hispanic registered voters as per Latino Decisions' projections, where he won 58 percent of the Latino vote. Obama also won 87 percent of Hispanic voters in Colorado , 80 percent in Nevada, 66 percent in Virginia and 82 percent of Ohio's 128,000-plus Latino votes.
What helped Obama gain a wave a Latino votes was GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's previous stances on immigration, including campaign trail promises to get so tough on immigration that many undocumented immigrants would "self-deport." Those statements mortally wounded Romney's standing among the rapidly growing-and increasingly influential-Latino electorate nationwide.
"Romney's share of 23% was nowhere near the 38% his team identified as his 'magic number' for Latinos nationally," an article on the web site stated.
With last week's election results, Latino advocates have made it clear that they want immigration reform to be dealt with seriously on the table, especially in light of Hispanics' new voting muscles.
"Democrats want reform, and Republicans need it. That's the new dynamic," Frank Sharry, the executive director of America's Voice, an immigrant advocacy group, told the Boston Globe.
A majority of US Senate Republicans defeated a proposal for immigration reform in 2007 that would have allowed illegal immigrants to apply for legal status and stay in the country for up to six years, with the main complaint from GOP Senators being that opening a pathway to citizenship would reward lawbreakers and punish immigrants who went through proper procedures to come into the country.
That marked a dramatic shift for the GOP in their view of immigration, with the party adopting a strict opposition to any immigration reform offering citizenship to illegal immigrants.
With many GOP members left in self-reflection after Romney's defeat, Republican leaders have indicated in the last several days that they may be inclined to shift their hardliner stance on immigration reform in the spirit of coming to a comprehensive review of immigration reform.
Republicans should approach it as the party of Reagan and Bush -- the party that has historically been pro-immigration," Grover Norquist, a GOP anti-tax activist in favor of immigration reform told NBC Politics.com.
"This issue has been around far too long," Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner told ABC News on Thursday. "I'm confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all."
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday he believes there is a "darn good chance" of Congress passing comprehensive immigration reform next year, and that he is working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, to come up with a bipartisan approach to reform immigration with a new bill.
That bill would include:
- Enhanced border control to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.
- Strict penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants and a reliable system that allows businesses to check the immigration status of their workers.
- A guestworker program and visa policy that allows U.S. businesses to bring in skilled and unskilled workers.
- A path to permanent residency and citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country. Such immigrants would be required to pass background checks, learn English and pay fees and taxes.