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What Republicans need tell Latinos about immigration

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Oct. 26, 2012: Spanish language election campaign signs promoting President Barack Obama hang on the windows at Lechonera El Barrio Restaurant in Orlando, Fla. Hispanics supported President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by almost 3-to-1 and put Republicans on notice they must take real steps to win over the nations largest minority group if they want to win the presidency again. (AP)

Republicans got clobbered by Latino voters in the 2012 elections. President Obama outpolled Gov. Romney by 71 percent to 27 percent among Latino voters. 

Since Election Day some pundits have claimed that the GOP needs to “get right” with this block of voters if the GOP ever hopes to win a national election again.  By getting right, they really mean turning their backs on the rule of law, supporting an amnesty for illegal aliens, and opening the floodgates to more legal immigration.

But what the Republicans need to “get right” is their diagnosis of their problem. Latino voters, per se, are not the reason Governor Romney lost this election. 

The problem Republicans have is that America’s immigration system, which emphasizes chain migration over skills-based admission, admits millions of immigrants who generally have low incomes, less education, and are more dependent on the government social safety net. As such, they are predisposed to vote for candidates that lure them and reward them with public benefits.  Thus, it’s the rapidly changing economic demographics, not ethnic demographics that are the culprit.

Republicans need to make the case that their immigration agenda is motivated by a desire to see Latinos move up and succeed.

Once the proper diagnosis is made, Republicans may come to the realization that they have no choice but to try to overhaul an antiquated immigration system that no longer serves the needs of the country, but serves reliably to help Democrats win elections. Republicans need to begin the work of ushering in skills-based immigration and reducing the overall numbers.

Reducing immigration will help Republicans because it lowers unemployment and allows those immigrants already here a better shot at moving up the socio-economic ladder, perhaps into a tax-bracket where voting patterns are often dictated by the assets one has to protect.

The GOP mission should be to make immigrants more prosperous, not pander to them by gutting our laws with an amnesty.   

And as regards our current admissions process, Republicans need to push for an end to the practice of issuing 1 million green cards each year to people simply based on the fact they’re related to someone who is already here, and convert our entire admissions system to a skills-based one.

Repeat.  Republicans need to try to convert our entire admissions system to a skills-based one, not just push for more skilled foreign workers – as they are -- while failing to address an obsolete and faulty immigration foundation that works to their disadvantage.

Latinos – but more importantly all immigrants -- need to know what’s in it for them and Republicans need to do a better job telling them that needed immigration adjustments will  elevate their individual status, not hinder it.  Enforcing laws against illegal immigration and limiting future immigration helps reduce competition for jobs, wages, educational opportunities, and health services – the things all voters say they really do care about.

It’s time for the Republicans to stop allowing Democrats to define their position on immigration as being motivated by a desire to keep Latinos out.  Republicans need to make the case that their immigration agenda is motivated by a desire to see Latinos move up and succeed.

Bob Dane is Communications Director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).