New Immigration Law: How it Could Impact the Midterm Elections

Let’s pretend for a moment that the immigration-reform bill actually gets passed in the House in the next few weeks. Will we see (already legalized) immigrants go to the polls in increasing numbers in the 2014 midterm elections and beyond, as 11 million immigrants get amnesty for being in the U.S. illegally?

In her newest act of stagecraft, conservative pundit Ann Coulter said that passage of the immigration bill could be the end of the Republican Party. Coulter says, “The Democrats will get 30 million new voters, 80% of which, according to all polls, will be voting for Democrats.” Which polls exactly that she is referring to is, uh, unknown.

Coulter and other conservatives opposed to the immigration bill have found their latest and greatest scare tactic to pressure House Republicans: Don’t vote for the bill, or else Republicans will never win again. The 2014 elections are our first chance to see how Republicans fare after their widespread losses in the 2012 elections. Assuming that the immigration bill gets passed, will Coulter be right? Are Republicans “doomed” if they grant amnesty to illegal immigrants?

I don’t think so. On the contrary, House Republicans have a lot to gain if they support the immigration bill. Let’s focus on one of the largest populations affected by the immigration bill: Latinos.

While Latinos are not the entire demographic that will be strongly affected by the immigration bill, they are one of the largest groups and their vote definitely matters as the United States grows more diverse. In a June 2013 poll by Latino Decisions, 52% of Latino voters said they would be more likely to support the GOP if the immigration reform bill was passed, even if they did not support the GOP on other issues.

The weight of immigration reform is so heavy that, if passed, it could help revive the Republican Party in time for the midterm elections. Immigration-bill sponsors like Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are helping sway potential voters towards the Republican Party. The same June 2013 poll showed that Rubio’s rhetoric had a favorable impact on Latino voters’ perceptions of the Republican Party —  66% of respondents felt more favorable towards his party after reading some of his statements.

So what can we expect in the 2014 elections? It all depends on if the bill passes in the House, and who takes the reins in helping pass it. According to Latino Decisions, 63% of Latinos would be more likely to vote Democratic if a House Democrat helped bring the bill to victory. (a far cry from the 80% that Ann Coulter mentioned earlier.) This could mean more Senate seats and a few gained House seats from Republicans.

On the contrary, 45% of Latinos are more likely to vote for the GOP if a House Republican helps push the immigration bill to victory. Could this be enough to revitalize the GOP?

As House deliberations come down to the wire, House Republicans should consider the potential gains shown in these polls, not the made-for-cable-television melodrama of Ann Coulter and her posse. The GOP has the chance to make some midterm gains and sway a whole new voter demographic, with the help of Rubio’s rhetoric. That is, if the immigration bill gets passed.

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Jessie Bullock

A Stanford University M.A. Candidate, Spanish and Portuguese speaking girl, Jessie focuses her research on Latin American policy, drug policy, and agricultural policy. You can probably find her talking about Brazil with a newspaper in one hand and glass of wine in the other.

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