Despite the fact that Latinos are now the largest minority group in America, GOP presidential candidates don’t appear to be focusing any effort in gaining their support.
Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry all claim that they strongly oppose granting “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants already residing in the United States, even though a majority of Americans support a “path to citizenship” and an increasing number support granting “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants (Pew Research Poll).
However, some of the candidates are being criticized for their more liberal immigration views. For example, Rick Perry signed a bill into law that granted in-state tuition for some undocumented immigrants which Mitt Romney equates with granting “amnesty.” Newt Gingrich, also, stated his support for establishing a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants who have been living in the United States for a long period of time and have established family ties which has prompted criticism from his competitors, especially Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Both have since taken more conservative views with regard to immigration.
Furthermore, most of the candidate’s plans for immigration reform policy center around “securing the borders” before establishing any specific plans about the status of undocumented immigrants or enforcement policies. The vague nature of the candidates positions creates problems among all voters as to what their policies may be, if elected.
The Hispanic vote will be a vital constituency in the upcoming election. Due to president Obama’s heavy emphasis on border security and increased deportations, if Republicans took more moderate positions on immigration, they could garner the support of Latinos and independents, but not with the policies they are promoting now. In addition, some Republican presidential candidates support even more conservative stances on specific immigration policies. For example, Newt Gingrich supports a bill similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 and Michele Bachmann supports the deportation of all undocumented immigrants. Latinos and Independents will be two key constituencies that may be dissuaded by these very conservative immigration stances and will be the difference between the winning and losing parties in 2012.