WASHINGTON - Democrats are regrouping from the wave of Republican victories that delivered them control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Democrats, however, retained the Senate thanks largely to the massive turnout of Latinos who broke heavily for Democrats in key races, mitigating the mid-term disaster. The following is a statement by Gabe Gonzalez, chief political strategist for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM).
“As Democrats lick their wounds and consider their future, one lesson that shouldn’t escape them is that they maintain a majority in the Senate because of Latinos and immigrants. In the marquee matchup, Sen. Harry Reid, a staunch supporter of immigration reform, carried almost 90 percent of the Latino vote and soundly defeated his opponent, a Tea Party favorite who attacked immigrants and demonized Latinos over and over again with some of the ugliest, most racist ads of this election cycle.
“Beginning with the introduction of proposition 187 in California through today, the struggle for immigration reform has had one clear outcome: it has deeply politicized a generation of Latinos in the U.S. Every year, the number of Latino voters rise, and we get ever more politically sophisticated. We know who our friends are.
“This lesson will play a pivotal role in 2012. Winning the Presidency will be almost impossible without Latinos and immigrants. New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois and Texas all have huge numbers of Latino and immigrant voters. Add to that states like Colorado and Nevada, with their now proven track record of Latino involvement, and you have a lead that is almost insurmountable.
“The challenge for the Republican Party will be to modify their stance on immigration legislation the new speaker brings forth and how they choose to portray their party on issues important to Latinos. The challenge for Democrats is to provide the positive reinforcement needed to turn out the Latino vote, and poll after poll shows there is only one way to do this – pass immigration reform.
“This will not be easy for either party. Republicans will have people like Rep. Steve King of Iowa calling for the deportation of anyone with a Z in their name. And Democrats will be terrified that taking a proactive stance on immigration will cost them the seats they have left in the House. But one thing is clear after this last election, Latinos have come into our own politically, and we don’t plan to turn back.”
FIRM (Fair Immigration Reform Movement) is a coalition of grassroots community organizations nationwide, working on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform and immigrant rights and is convened by the Center for Community Change.