Will the Immigration Issue Play a Major Role in the Midterms?

The Hispanic share of the American population (over 16%) and registered voters (over 10%) is increasing rapidly. Barack Obama’s decisive win over Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters in 2012 -- by about 73% to 27%,  if the exit polls are to be believed -- was a far wider margin than Obama achieved in 2008 and  John Kerry or other Democrats won with this voting group in earlier presidential election cycles.

An attempt to reverse that trend was one reason why several Republican senators were part of the Group of 8 that attempted to draft a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and why more than a dozen Republican senators signed on to the  bill that passed the Senate in 2013 by a vote of 68 to 32. Several Republican congressman participated in a similar effort in the House, though with less success.

The Senate bill stalled in the House, where a large majority of Republicans were opposed to what they viewed as amnesty with a path to citizenship for illegals in the United States and a continuation of chained immigration policies that would lead to a mix of new immigrants favoring family unification over skilled immigrants.

There was support for immigration reform from some major Republican financial contributors, the K Street crowd, and many businesses and Chamber of Commerce types who were happy to make low-wage labor legal and more widespread.  Silicon Valley supported immigration reform, but really cared mainly about expanding the number of skilled workers they could hire.

President Obama attempted to apply pressure to House Republicans to get on board by stripping off "dreamers” as a separate group who would not be deported (in other words, for whom immigration laws would not be enforced). The dreamers are a group of illegals who were brought here as children and either served in the military or attended college.

Then came the recent flood of Central American young people crossing into Texas, and to a lesser extent California and Arizona. The supporters of immigration reform have argued that the new wave is attributable to terrible conditions in the migrants' home countries (high murder rates among them), which presumably would argue for Chicago’s South Side and West Side youngsters to be fleeing north to Canada, seeking asylum to avoid the gang murderers in their midst.

Tea Party members and their media supporters, but also many other Americans if recent polls are to be believed, have been angered by the latest wave of illegal immigrants, which they believe is in large part a result of a green light issued by the Obama administration when it announced its policy on “dreamers” and promised amnesty to illegals.  When a country no longer has effective borders, it is certainly less of a sovereign country.

The Obama administration, as was to be expected, asked for more money (about $4 billion), only a small part of which was to be applied for deportations (returning the young people to their countries of origin). Now, there are rumors that President Obama will soon issue a new executive order that will provide the right to work for millions of illegals, since immigration reform is going nowhere in the current Congress, with prospects further reduced beginning in 2015 if Republicans win control of the Senate (a slightly better than  50% prospect at this point). Several lawyers are convinced that such an action by the president would be illegal on its face, and politically, it would be certain to create a strong reaction among those already unhappy with the administration (well over 50% at this point). A recent survey asking about a re-vote of the 2012 race gave Romney a decisive 9% point victory.