Opponents to immigration reform have embraced a new talking point.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin joined the debate over the Senate-approved comprehensive immigration reform bill this weekend, saying in a Coulter-esque statement posted to Facebook that a vote for the “amnesty bill” insults Latinos.
“You’ve just abandoned the Reagan Democrats with this amnesty bill,” Palin’s statement reads, adding: “You disrespect Hispanics with your assumption that they desire ignoring the rule of Law.”
Anyone familiar with polling of Latino voters knows this statement is inaccurate. Polls routinely find that an overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters support offering a pathway to citizenship to the undocumented. A Fox News Latino poll released in March of last year found some 85 percent of Latino voters favored a pathway to citizenship, while a Wall Street Journal-NBC poll from April put the figure at 82 percent. In the words of Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post’s Face Checker blog, “a core part of Palin’s assumply is just simply wrong.”
But that hasn’t stopped others from tossing the idea into the news cycle.
During an appearance on CNN last week, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed Democrats for “playing the race card” on immigration, saying that “a whole lot of Hispanics” in his state preferred ramping up border security to passing a reform with a pathway to citizenship.
“I will tell you as the son of a Cuban immigrant, as someone who received over 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in the state of Texas, I think it is condescending to go to Hispanics and say ‘we’re going to buy your vote with amnesty,’” Cruz said.
As conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin points out, no poll actually shows that Cruz ever won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. She continues:
Cruz and others opposed to citizenship for illegal immigrants are trying to convince fellow Republicans that they will do fine with Hispanics by voting against immigration reform. There is a mound of data from polling, focus groups and election results that says anti-immigration reform rhetoric and votes matter quite a lot, and not only with Hispanics. If Cruz’s argument that all this data is wrong rests on an inaccurate assertion about his own experience, then Republicans should be wary.
Not all of them are. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) also endorsed the “immigration reform is offensive to Latinos” line in an interview with the Daily Caller published Saturday.
“What’s going on when Democrats and Republicans talk about immigration really is this battle over the Hispanic population now that is growing here in America and trying to win them over for future elections,” Barletta told The Daily Caller. “That is so misguided and also demeaning to the Latino population, to believe that that is more important to people who are here than a good job, a good education, a better life.”
In January, the immigration hardliner portrayed Hispanics and Latin American immigrants as uneducated and government-dependent and said the GOP shouldn’t bother winning over Latino voters at all.
“Anyone who believes that they’re going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken,” Barletta said in January. “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.”
Latinos use less than their fair share of government benefits, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The talking point is a variation of a strategy adopted during the Mitt Romney campaign last year, which emphasized that polls show the top concern for Latino voters is the economy and jobs rather than immigration.
Romney lost the Hispanic vote by 27 percent to 71 percent.