Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich Anti-Immigration Rhetoric in Florida Primary Will Be Costly Come November

Florida Hispanics who identify as Republicans are mostly Cubans and Puerto Ricans who enjoy protection from U.S. immigration woes due to favorable policies and exemptions for their group. They could care less what about Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich’s back and forth on immigration reform because their path to citizenship in this country has usually been pretty clear and unobstructed.

However, for those Americans with familial ties to countries that typically have not enjoyed such favorable considerations within U.S. immigration policy, they are listening closely to the GOP and will undoubtedly recall their “anti-immigrant” rhetoric when it comes time to vote this November.

During last week’s State of the Union, President Barack Obama challenged Congress to tackle comprehensive immigration reform this year by encouraging lawmakers to consider a second attempt at passing the controversial DREAM Act – proposed legislation to allow the children of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship in the U.S. The bill passed the Democratic-led House in 2010, but was stopped just shy of reaching the President’s desk after Senate Republicans killed the bill.

Traditionally, talks surrounding comprehensive immigration reform in Washington have usually broken down due to a genuine fear – shared by both Democrats and Republicans – that laws concerning legalization of undocumented immigrants will trigger a mass migration of people to U.S. shores. Democrats have typically been weary of pursuing the issue – especially during an election year — so as not to be pegged by Republican opponents as soft on national security.

Perhaps the Obama administration’s national security accomplishments have emboldened Democrats to resume the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Or maybe the new electoral landscape for 2012, shaped by the results of the 2010 Census, has encouraged some movement on this controversial topic.

Due to an explosive population growth in the central and southern regions of the state over the past decade, Florida stands to gain two new congressional districts. This means that the largest swing state in the country will have even more sway in this year’s elections with a total of 27 congressional districts at play in 2012. One of the districts — located in the city of Gainesville — is expected to be an easy win for Republicans, while the second district located in the Orlando region, and largely comprised of Hispanics with a liberal leaning, is expected to go blue in November.

A week before Florida Republicans cast their votes for their nominee, GOP frontrunners – Romney and Gingrich – professed a change of heart regarding their opposition to the DREAM Act by signaling support for language in the bill which would provide a path to citizenship for those who served in the military. Prior to reversing their position on the DREAM Act, neither candidate supported the proposed bill. In fact, Romney went as far to say that if elected president, he would veto the legislation if Congress sent it to his desk.

Romney and Gingrich are in for a rude awakening if they believe pandering to a dwindling number of conservative Hispanics in Florida will help secure a GOP presidential win in November.

Any votes gained in January will be negligible compared to the votes lost to Democrats in November when the children and grandchildren of immigrants – first and second generation Americans – who are not impressed with GOP insensitivity to the plight of immigrants in this country, do not hesitate to side with the presidential and congressional candidates that have consistently worked to simultaneously provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and protect the country from external threats.

Photo Credit: buschap 

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Audrey Nicoleau

Audrey D. Nicoleau is a political communications strategist. She designs communication strategies that: improves and increase social media and web content to target audiences; prepares senior executives for national news appearances; develops and maintain strategic public-private partnerships; and produces high-profile events. Previously, Ms. Nicoleau worked as a Public Affairs/Governance Program Officer with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). Prior to this, she served in the U.S. House of Representatives for a number of years, working first as Legislative Aide to Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), then as Senior Policy Advisor to Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL), and leadership staff to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Ms. Nicoleau holds a M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University, and a B.A. in Political Science and History from New College of Florida. Her academic research has covered Political Communications; Democratization and Globalization theory; United States Immigration Policy; and the social, political and economic dynamics of ethnic diaspora groups around the world.

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