In a procedural vote yesterday, Senate Republicans (and two Democrats) voted not to proceed (56-43) to the Defense Authorization bill in a party line vote, preventing the consideration of, among others, the DREAM Act amendment. Hemming and hawing their way through floor speeches, Senate Republicans expressed sympathy for the plight of potential DREAM Act students and offered to “debate the merits of the DREAM Act” in a standalone bill, just not on the Defense authorization bill. This latest vote, coupled with some in the GOP’s recent anti-immigrant rhetoric on birthright citizenship and Arizona’s immigration enforcement laws, has the potential to not only alienate America’s fastest growing voting bloc, but drive them to the polls in November.
On a conference call today, several local immigration advocacy groups stated that they’re already gearing up for a fight. Gihan Perara, Director of Florida New Majority, said many Latinos feel betrayed by Republican Senator George LeMieux’s vote yesterday, enough so to head to the ballots:
People are very angry at Sen. LeMieux for what people consider a double-cross of fairness and caving into right wing groups who are trying to shape politics in this state. Starting today, we’ll have field groups in the state talking to voters to talk about November vote. We’re not only talking to Latino voters, who make up 14% of voters in the state, but also African Americans. Yesterday’s Senate vote is a strong tip off point for this population to find a reason to come out to the ballot box. We’re getting tons of calls from people about what they can do to help after the vote yesterday. The show of unity shows the degree to which people feel betrayed and angered.
Joshua Hoyt, Director of Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), said that as 9% of the state’s voters, Latinos are a group than simply cannot be ignored.
The unified Republican filibuster represents, to us, the position of Republicans on this issue. The Republicans’ filibuster is being interpreted as an attack on the children of Latino immigrants.
We’re raising money in Illinois to do immigrant voter turn out. We will have a full multi-contact program to get out the immigrant vote. The time has passed for taking empty promises from anyone. The time has come to take names and to deliver a political message in November.
Similarly, Theresa Trujillo of Colorado Progressive Action, said:
I think that we will continue to see [yesterday’s vote] as an opportunity, as a step on a longer journey, to organize Latinos around this issue and to galvanize Latinos in the electoral process. … We’re in the middle the largest effort to mobilize Latino voters. Our organization, and a collaboration of other organizations, are talking to hundreds of thousands of voters every single day, who call us about immigration reform and want to know what we’re doing to move this forward. What we’re hearing is that jobs and fair immigration reform are top issues for Latino voters. In 2008, the whole message was that hope and change won out over fear. Yesterday, we saw who was in favor of change and who was in favor of fear.
This week, former Secretary of State and retired General, Colin Powell, called for Republicans to both support the DREAM Act and to stop with all the anti-immigrant rhetoric. Last week, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Latino community that if they want immigration reform next year, they must turn out in force in November.
Latinos made up 7.4% of the electorate in 2008, which has roughly double in the last 20 years, and is expected to grow. If they’re not careful, the “Party of No” could easily become the “Party of No One” if leaders continue to alienate America’s fastest growing voting bloc.
Photo by neon.mamacita.