The election of Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown in Massachusetts provides an interesting twist in 2010 electoral politics. While some may argue that this loss is essentially a referendum on the current Administration and its agenda, the less dramatic but more likely conclusion is that the results were more about the candidates themselves. Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s well-documented gaffes in the media made for entertaining fodder during a news cycle dominated by depressing news from Haiti. Her loss, while bad news for the Democrats in Congress who prefer having a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, does not necessarily derail the President’s agenda. To make wholesale assumptions that Republican Senator-Elect Scott Brown is going to automatically derail all of the President’s upcoming initiatives is not only pre-mature but impossible to determine.

New senators take weeks and even months to become acclimated to their new responsibilities and set a new agenda after hearing from their new constituents. Senator Brown’s constituents are, in no small part, made up of individuals representing a diverse range of ethnic groups from all around the world who call this historic immigrant gateway their home—just as generations of immigrants before them.

Research conducted by the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) finds:

  • 12.7% (or 403,915) of registered voters in Massachusetts were “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants.
  • The state’s foreign born population represents over 14% of state’s total population and 17% of the state’s workforce.
  • The 2009 purchasing power of Asians totaled $12.7 billion and Latinos totaled $12.4 billion in Massachusetts.
  • Immigrants in the Bay State paid $1.1 billion in state income taxes in 2007.

Just last year the state released one of the most aggressive immigrant integration plans in the nation, stating:

Immigrants in Massachusetts represent over 14% of the state’s population and an even larger portion of the Massachusetts workforce. By 2004, immigrants accounted for 1 in 6 of all workers in the Commonwealth. More importantly, immigrants make up over 21.6 percent of the crucial younger labor force aged 21-44, necessary to drive the Massachusetts economy and generate new growth. Massachusetts has come to depend on the growth of its immigrant populations to maintain its population size and economic prosperity. Massachusetts benefits economically, culturally, and civically from the full inclusion of immigrants.

For comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) to pass, it will need support from both Democrats and Republicans, and the outcome of the Massachusetts Senate special election did not change that fact. In fact, it may be the case that this election result makes CIR even more likely.

With Senator-elect Brown facing re-election in 2012, he will have to find a way to win the hearts and minds of all residents in the state—including the more than 403,000 New American voters in Massachusetts. How Brown votes on comprehensive immigration reform will largely determine his success.

Photo by megboudreau.

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