If elections are meant as an articulation of national will, then last week’s vote appears to have sent a message on the need for immigration reform, specifically what should be done about the estimated 12 million foreign nationals residing in the United States who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas.
No, Americans did not vote directly on immigration reform, and the topic was barely mentioned on the campaign trail by President Barack Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. But the Republican Party clearly suffered at the ballot box as a result of its resistance to immigration reform.
During the presidential primaries, several Republican contenders took a hard line on the matter, blasting any measure that would provide a path to legal status as an amnesty for law breakers. Romney advocated a strategy of making life in America so difficult for illegals that they would opt to leave the country, or do what he called self-deport.
Tuesday, Hispanic-Americans, who make up an increasingly powerful voting bloc, got their say in the matter. More than 70 percent of Hispanics voted for President Barack Obama, a strong rebuke to Republicans. In the week since, many Republicans have gone out of their way to say that the party must change and embrace immigration reform if it is to remain competitive at the ballot box.
”The immigration debate… has built a wall between the Republican Party and the Hispanic community,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. Graham noted that Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, and said that Republican rhetoric on immigration hurts the party in election cycle after election cycle. “It is one thing to shoot yourself in the foot,” Graham said. “Just don’t reload the gun.”
Graham pledged to push for immigration reform that was once championed by President George W. Bush. At the time, Bush got more support from Democratic lawmakers than members of his own Republican Party.