For those puzzled by the recent thrusts and feints on our border crisis, here is a helpful primer:
- Democrats blame the “urgent humanitarian crisis” at our border on an obscure 2008 sex trafficking bill. But, they refuse to change the bill.
- President Obama’s DACA order in 2012, protecting young people here illegally against deportation, summoned tens of thousands of migrant children from Central America. To solve the problem, the White House wants to open the door even wider by offering asylum to people from that region.
- House Republicans passed a bill giving President Obama funds to manage the flood of immigrant minors and his requested expansion of deportation capability; Harry Reid’s Senate refused to take up the legislation.
- President Obama accuses Republicans of creating the border disaster by failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The “reform” bill passed earlier this year by the Senate would not have prevented the flood of unaccompanied minors from Central America, or provided any solution to the problem.
- Notwithstanding the calamitous consequences of the DACA, President Obama is threatening to provide amnesty by executive order for some portion of the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in our country. That will not, of course, fix the border crisis.
- President Obama got so mad about the whole mess that he stalked off to play golf.
That pretty much sums up President Obama’s phony bleating about immigration. What we are seeing is a replay of 2012, when sinking approval ratings from Hispanic voters and a tight reelection race pushed the president to unilaterally create the mini-Dream Act, or the DACA. Today, the Senate is up for grabs, and in a number of contested states, Latino voters may well prove critical.
Obama’s standing has shriveled among Hispanics, and he’s desperate for a win with Latinos who do not reliably turn out for midterm elections. What could better drive Hispanics to vote for Democrat candidates in November than an amnesty gift from our embattled president?
Only the inevitable hostile overreaction from Republicans. An overreaction that drove the second bill the House recently sent to the Senate, which aimed to revoke DACA. Republicans know that the country is sympathetic to the DREAM Act -- most of us feel that innocent young people who have grown up in the U.S., and certainly those who have served in the armed forces, deserve a shot at citizenship. This second bill was born of frustration over a president who has been dishonest about his commitment to immigration reform and who has repeatedly challenged the constitutional authority of Congress.
Obama’s play here is simple. It comes down, as ever, to politics and polls. The GOP needs to win a net six seats to take control of the Senate. First, they must defend their seats in Georgia and Kentucky. While Mitch McConnell should ride Obama’s anti-coal program to victory in Kentucky, the race in Georgia between Republican David Perdue and Dem Michelle Nunn is tight.
A recent New York Times piece, “Control of Senate May Hinge on Georgia,” concluded, “If there is a path to victory for Ms. Nunn, it will be by increasing minority turnout…” While “48 percent of those newly eligible nonwhite voters are black,” Hispanics are the fastest-growing share of the electorate, now accounting for 3 percent of the total. According to Pew Research, Georgia’s Hispanic population is the 10th largest in the nation; the number of registered voters has more than tripled since 2004. But, only about half the eligible Hispanic voters were registered in 2012, making the state ripe for just the kind of get-out-the-vote campaign that Democrats excel at.
In North Carolina, another race characterized as a dead heat today, the number of registered Hispanic voters has increased tenfold since 2004, according to Pew. In 2012, Latinos accounted for 1.7 percent of registered voters -- without a doubt that figure is now north of 2 percent. In Louisiana, where incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu is under siege, the fast-growing Hispanic community accounted for 3 percent of eligible voters in 2012.
In Colorado, Mark Udall may keep his seat thanks to the expanding Hispanic population in that state – now at 14 percent of the electorate. Some 63 percent of that group has family or friends that are undocumented. Do they care about immigration reform? You bet. And so it goes. In state after state, close races could well be decided by a campaign effort to sign up eligible Hispanic voters and entice them to the polls.
Even in Alaska, in a race too close to call, Democrat incumbent Mark Begich is appealing to the 6 percent of the population that is Hispanic through ads on Telemundo. Though it is not clear how many are registered voters, in a 50-50 match up, Begich is on the hunt for every incremental vote.
Now you know why Obama may enact a broader amnesty program via executive order. He wants to keep the Senate in Democrat hands and not spend the next two years lamely quacking. But, President Obama’s approval ratings on how he’s handling the immigration crisis are deep in negative territory. More Americans now trust the GOP on the issue, a sharp turnaround from three months ago.
The border mess -- the sense that the rule of law is crumbling in the U.S. -- has hardened the country’s view of illegal immigrants. What Obama may win through a higher turnout of Hispanics in some key states, he could lose elsewhere. What we do know is that Obama may not excel at foreign policy or working with Congress or managing the federal government, but he is excellent at manipulating the electorate and winning elections against all odds.
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