Monday, November 06, 2006

Reading the Tea Leaves

Unless you've been under a rock for the past few weeks, you're bound to have heard about today's election and possible shake-up in Congress. What's unclear, however, is just how much immigration will be on voters' minds as they cast their ballots. Congress spent nearly a year trying to groom immigration reform as a wedge issue. Strategists seem to have been hoping that concern over undocumented immigration would compel more voters to come out to express their support for candidates who promised to get tough on the issue. Both parties took this line, although one of them went one step further and threatened to turn 12 million undocumented immigrants into "criminals".

Yet, if we read the tea leaves (a phrase heard from many a commentator in the last few days), it looks as though immigration policy will not be a deciding factor in the elections. It's too far down on the list of voter concerns.

A Republican polling organization, The Tarrance Group released a memorandum today that showed that immigration is not a key issue in this election. Of the people they surveyed, "Just 11% of likely voters select immigration as the most important issue in deciding their vote for Congress, putting it behind the War in Iraq (29%), terrorism and homeland security (15%), and the economy and jobs (11%)."

The experts at are predicting the same as the Tarrance Group but also point out that "Whatever modest short-term gains made by using immigration as a wedge issue in this election cycle (and we expect the success rate to be mixed, at best), the long-run negative consequences of alienating moderate, immigrant, and Latino voters will be felt by candidates and parties for a long time to come."

To further support this last point, today the National Council of La Raza released the results of a poll that showed Latino voters are showing strong enthusiasm for voting as response to the immigration rhetoric of the past year. Janet MurguĂ­a, NCLR President and CEO, said “From all indications, Latinos are clearly fired up about the 2006 election. And this poll bears out what previous elections have demonstrated – that while immigration is not the Latino community’s greatest concern, the issue continues to be its greatest motivator."

What does this all mean for the future of the immigrant rights movement and the real possibility of pro-immigrant reform? The Nation asserts that the immigrant-rights movement is in the midst of regrouping. Perhaps once the impact of the Latino vote is measured, the movement will be even further energized. Only time will tell (have you heard that phrase here before?).

Check out more more information on immigration in today's election.