New Immigration Enforcement Policy – The Politics

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The Obama Administration has announced a new immigration enforcement policy that protects young, law-abiding, undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. as children, from deportation proceedings for two years, and makes them eligible to apply for work authorization.

Ted Simons: Joining us now to talk about the politics of the president's new immigration policy is Rudy Espino, an assistant professor of political science for ASU's school of politics and global studies. Good to see you again.

Rudy Espino: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: This kind of came out of nowhere, didn't it? A bit of a surprise?

Rudy Espino: Yeah, for a lot of us that follow Latino politics and immigration politics particularly, surprise to many people, given the administration's stance on this the last couple years.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the political fallout. We'll start with democrats, go to Republicans, and all points in between. What are you seeing?

Rudy Espino: Well, for democrats particularly Obama's reelection chances, this improves his standing within the Latino electorate. It certainly puts Republicans' efforts to woo Latino voters back to them, it puts them a couple steps back. So this is certainly advantageous for President Obama and his reelection chances in states like Nevada and New Mexico.

Ted Simons: What does it do in Arizona?

Rudy Espino: Probably not a whole lot. We hear every once in a while, going back to 2008, that Arizona is increasingly a Battle Ground state. I just don't see the numbers there. Also too, Romney has deep roots here, deep connections to the Mormon community, I think he has it pretty much locked up. In the other states it's pretty critical.

Ted Simons: The idea this would mob lies Latino -- mobilize Latino vote nationally, could it mobilize those who may not be that hot on Mitt Romney and say we've got to get out there, we don't like this?

Rudy Espino: It certainly is a potential for backlash, but if you look at recent national polling, a lot of your average white American voters are not concerned about immigration as much as they used to be. It's not the number one priority. Number one priority is employment, the economy, and if you ask them, do you think the immigration helps the economy, majority of Americans say yes.

Ted Simons: Much of the criticism from Republicans, was this was an opportunistic move by the president. Does that resonate with voters?

Rudy Espino: It could certainly resonate, if those charges are made, I think we're starting to hear some of that. But we're only in June. Voters will probably have forgotten this come November. And we'll be talking about something else.

Ted Simons: Did the president have to do something some you mentioned ticket sales start his immigration policy deported more folks in his one term than I believe George W. Bush did in his entire administration. Lots of deportations, and I know lots of grumbling in the Latino community regarding the -- did he have to do this?

Rudy Espino: He didn't have to, but there was a lot of pressure on him for backing out on some promises he made as candidate Obama in 2008. One of his campaign pledges was comprehensive immigration reform, health care reform dragged out, he had to put it on the back burner heading into the 2010 mid term elections. He chose climate change legislation to push that over immigration reform and a lot of Latino voters felt betrayed. And a lot of Latino voters here in Arizona felt betrayed in the wake of the passage of SB 1070 in April 2010. That resonated nationally. A lot of people, a lot of Latino voters are asking where is the White House on this?

Ted Simons: As far as Republicans are concerned, the criticism has been interesting, much of it is on what the president -- how the president did it as opposed to what the president did. And the timing on this I think is being questioned by Republicans as well. It comes right before we're expecting something out of the Supreme Court and most folks are expecting a split decision at best. And also I believe Marco Rubio was just about ready to have his own plan, which might have been very similar. Correct?

Rudy Espino: Correct. It looked like Republicans were going to be launching their own dream act proposal with mark Rubio from Florida, a Cuban-American, sort of as the spokesperson on Romney's immigration issues. So it takes the fire away from Republicans on this. And -- so charges that this is political, absolutely. Any politician, any action they make could be defined as political.

Ted Simons: Indeed. So as far as where this goes in terms of the national law, I think we both agree Arizona right now would be difficult for the democrats, but nationally, does it make that much of a difference?

Rudy Espino: Nationally, if you're just looking at national numbers, maybe not. But you've got to keep in mind how we elect a president. It just requires a few states. 2000, one county in Florida determined the outcome Hoff was going to be the president of the United States. It just takes a few states. Those critical stakes we're talking about, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, have nontrivial Latino voters that, this could pull them into Obama's camp.

Ted Simons: Did we see something last Tuesday, I believe in California, did it seem like there were a lot of votes there, and there was some discussion that Latino voters did not turn out in the numbers that were expected, or those that did turn out voted Republican perhaps more than expected. Did you see that?

Rudy Espino: Yeah. And you -- we even saw that in the 2010 mid-term elections. There was a lot of what we might call lack of enthusiasm within the Latino electorate. Not so much perhaps voting for Republicans, but just staying home. Feeling betrayed by the Democratic party, taken advantage of, and not turning out to vote. And this probably helps mend some of those fences that Latinos felt were broken with the 2010 decisions SB 1070 and a lot of the stances the administration has had on immigration.

Ted Simons: Last question -- how do Republicans regain footing on this issue?

Rudy Espino: Well, they probably want to start moving away from it. It would be really in my opinion bad move to start railing against the dream act. A lot of people are supportive of it. Probably start talking about other issues. Return the focus of -- back to the economy, back to unemployment and jobs.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, do you think by the time November hits we even remember what happened?

Rudy Espino: Not as much as other things, but what I think is going to be critical is the Supreme Court decision on SB 1070. That's going to resonate a lot through July and August.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Rudy Espino: Thank you for having me.

Rudy Espino:ASU Political Science Professor;

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