On the heels of Mitt Romney’s narrow Iowa victory over former Senator Rick Santorum, Colorado Democrats today said Romney’s positions on immigration put him outside the mainstream and make him virtually unelectable in Colorado.
“While Mitt Romney squeaked out a narrow win last night (in Iowa), what we are going to see is that the victory is going to prove to be very expensive for him, both in terms of the resources he poured into beating his incredibly weak counterparts in the Republican Party and (in terms of) the pandering positions that he has embraced to appeal to Tea Party Republicans,” Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said at a press conference today.
“By now you have probably heard the national pundits making light of the fact that after six years of campaigning in Iowa, Mitt Romney earned six fewer votes than he earned in 2008 in the same caucus in Iowa. It is a fun statistic to talk about but it also reveals how weak Mitt Romney’s support is in his own party.”
For President Obama, immigration could be the gift that keeps on giving. His own positions appeal to (and infuriate) both sides of the immigration debate–challenging laws in Alabama and Arizona on one hand and on the other hand deporting a record 400,000 illegal immigrants in 2011 alone.
The real gifts to Obama, though, may come from a shifting demographic and an apparent GOP blindness to this shift.
Doug Massey, head of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University, reported last year that migration from Mexico to the United States has reached its lowest level in decades and may even have crossed over into net zero territory.
Douglas S. Massey, co-director of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton, an extensive, long-term survey in Mexican emigration hubs, said his research showed that interest in heading to the United States for the first time had fallen to its lowest level since at least the 1950s. “No one wants to hear it, but the flow has already stopped,” Mr. Massey said, referring to illegal traffic. “For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative.”
The decline in illegal immigration, from a country responsible for roughly 6 of every 10 illegal immigrants in the United States, is stark. The Mexican census recently discovered four million more people in Mexico than had been projected, which officials attributed to a sharp decline in emigration.
American census figures analyzed by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center also show that the illegal Mexican population in the United States has shrunk and that fewer than 100,000 illegal border-crossers and visa-violators from Mexico settled in the United States in 2010, down from about 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004. Although some advocates for more limited immigration argue that the Pew studies offer estimates that do not include short-term migrants, most experts agree that far fewer illegal immigrants have been arriving in recent years.
Add to this Mitt Romney’s immigrant-bashing rhetoric and you have a likely Republican presidential nominee who may find it difficult to compete strongly for the Latino vote in a general election against Obama.
“If Romney were the Republican nominee, his positions on immigration would be the most extreme of any nominee of our time and he continues to go further to the right and pander to the Tea Party and the Tancredo crowd, saying and standing for anything he thinks will get him elected,” Colorado Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, said this morning.
National advocates for immigrant rights are hammering Mitt Romney this week for opposing legislation providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrant students.
The advocates maintain that Romney’s recent vow to veto the DREAM Act if he wins the White House will “disqualify” him in the eyes of Latino voters, an ever-growing constituency that both parties have sought to court.
“Millions of Latino voters see their own children and family histories in the aspirations and ambitions of the DREAM youth and don’t take kindly to those determined to slam the doors of opportunity in their faces,” Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant rights group, said Tuesday in a statement.
“If he becomes the Republican nominee, Romney will find it virtually impossible to reach the 40 percent threshold among Latino voters that Republican candidates need to win the White House,” Sharry said.
While campaigning in Iowa on Saturday, Romney didn’t mince his words when asked how he would approach the DREAM Act as president.
“The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it, and the answer is yes,” Romney said. “For those that come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits, I find to be contrary to the idea of a nation of laws.”
“If I’m the president of the United States, I want to end illegal immigration so that we can protect legal immigration,” Romney added. “I like legal immigration.”
Sharry said the remarks, while intended to woo Iowa conservatives in the run-up to this week’s caucuses, will make it much tougher for Romney to win vital swing states with significant Hispanic populations, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.
“Romney’s comments about the DREAM Act will disqualify him among a large swath of Latino voters throughout the nation,” Sharry said.
It is Romney’s weekend pledge to veto The Dream Act if it passed Congress while he is president that has enraged Coloradans as well.
“This issue is about making sure that every child whether documented or not has access to the American dream because that is what this country is built on. We are built on the idea that if you work hard and you play by the rules you will be able to have access to that American dream,” Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, said at today’s press conference.
Palacio and Duran pointed out that candidates who take hard right immigration stances tend to lose elections in Colorado, pointing most recently to John McCain, Tom Tancredo and Ken Buck.
“In 2010 Ken Buck and Tom Tancredo ran on some of the most anti immigrant platforms in the country and Colorado voters rejected them both and for good reason,” said Palacio. “Now that Mitt Romney has joined in this divisive Republican tradition of attacking common sense reforms that Colorado communities need, his political fate faces the same peril other candidates have faced.”
Meanwhile The Council on Foreign Relations this week reported that immigration from Mexico and Latin America to the U.S. is down to historically low levels and is not likely ever to recover to anything close to the levels that created the anti-immigration backlash of the 1990s and early 2000s. CFR pointed to a number of factors for the shift, including a declining birthrate in Mexico, improving economies in Mexico and Brazil, a stagnant economy in the U.S., the difficulty of crossing the border and the high number of deportations.
There are many reasons behind these trends, some general, some country specific. Many point to the Obama administration’s rather tough immigration policy as one reason for the decline. A record-breaking 400,000 immigrants were deported last year, and immigration prosecutions increased almost eighty percent along the U.S-Mexico border in the last four years. For Mexico, others speculate that the rise of organized crime and violence along the border may deter some from contemplating the journey…
An important factor is the weak U.S. economy. With unemployment rates hovering at just over eight percent, there are fewer jobs for natives and migrants alike. This has occurred at a time when many of their home countries are growing steadily – at a decent 4 percent regional average clip, and much more in particular countries and economic strongholds. Better job opportunities in the region broadly — but particularly in Brazil — encouraged many to return home, and kept others from leaving at all.
Looking ahead, a U.S. economic recovery would recreate the pull north for Latin Americans seeking to improve their lot. If the Chinese economy stumbles this too could slow returns, or push more migrants north (especially from Brazil, which counts China as its largest trading partner). Meanwhile, flows from Central America are likely to continue as long as economic opportunities there remain scarce. The real question is Mexico. There, demographics have already shifted, with fewer Mexicans coming of age and entering the work force each year. As a result, the Mexican immigration boom of the 1990s and early 2000s is unlikely to be repeated ever again.