Protests re-ignite U.S. immigration debate (3)

08:46, May 06, 2010      

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Former U.S. President George W. Bush and Karl Rove, who served as chief political strategist under the Bush administration, recognized this and sought to attract Hispanic votes.

The effort saw significant success in Texas in 2000 and in the 2004 presidential elections, when Bush attracted about 40 percent of the Latino vote, he noted.

But the Republican Party is split on the issue, and a majority of Republicans fret over illegal immigration, as well as high levels of legal immigration, he said.

"Fifteen years ago I would have said that Democrats are as divided as Republicans on this issue. It is still something of an elite vs. mass issue, with elites of both parties favoring immigration and the more populist parts of the parties opposing it," he said.

"Unions, for example, were often against immigration as a threat to manufacturing wages. The picture is more complicated today as service unions have large numbers of Hispanics as members."

But while Democrats are less divided than they once were, they still will see significant white working class opposition to immigration, he said.

In the long term, Republican opposition to immigration reform may hurt them with the growing Hispanic vote, he said.

While there has been some talk that President Obama needs to raise the issue to boost the November turnout among Hispanics, Fortier believes the more likely outcome will be to energize anti-immigration voters in both parties, as well as independents.

"So I think Democrats will bring it up, talk about it a bit, in order to meet their promise to discuss it," he said. "But at the end of the day, they will say it is too hard to do and not address it before the election."

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