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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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A split debate on immigration

Over the past couple of weeks, a clump of crucial U.S. senators and President Barack Obama have been moving toward putting forward a set of policies with the goal of reforming the American immigration system. The details have not been finalized, and the final form of whatever goes through Congress and possibly the White House won’t become set for a few months still.

However, in a time when partisan conflict is the name of the game, immigration reform has been an issue around which both parties appear to be coming to an agreement on, and this was one of the more important and divisive issues leading up to last year’s general election with strong feelings on both sides.

That being said, partisanship is very much alive and well in Congress and around the country. It is still the elephant in the room, but it is not trumpeting on this issue. Why so? Well, the men and women elected to Congress do have their ideals and causes, but ultimately they all share the fact that they are politicians, politicians who predominantly realize what battles are and aren’t worth fighting, what they should do to get votes and support from key groups, and that how they are perceived has a great impact on their ability to put forward their agenda.

One statistic that has been resurrected continuously over the past few weeks is how many of the Hispanic American voters in last year’s election voted for President Obama. The number who have voted for the Democrats in the past three elections has been a majority each time and has gotten larger between 2004 and 2008 and from that year to 2012. Adding on to that, the number of Hispanic voters has also increased immensely and continues to do so. In the not-so-distant future, 20 percent of American citizens will have Hispanic ancestry. It would be a gross oversimplification to say that the majority of these are immigrants or that the issue they all care most about is immigration, but recent voting behavior lends credence to the idea that many Hispanics feel marginalized or at the very least rubbed the wrong way by the Republican Party.

Whatever the reasons, the facts show that a strong majority of Hispanics do not vote Republican, and the number of Hispanics is growing daily in crucial states such as Florida, Colorado, etc. In fact, the Hispanic population is also growing rapidly in Republican strongholds such as Georgia. There is no foreseeable possibility that Georgia will vote Democrat in a presidential election in the near future, but Gov. Mitt Romney’s victory by a margin of only approximately 8 percent is not insurmountable.
The general point is that, if the Republicans want to remain a viable political party on a national level, they have to court the Hispanic vote in different ways than in the past. Immigration reform is not the only key to doing this, but it is viewed by many in the party, including former presidential candidate and current senator, John McCain, as an essential step.

Many in the Republican Party have shown a willingness to give ground on immigration while still maintaining some of their traditional immigration positions so as to not alienate some already in their voting base. To put it another way, the Republicans do not want the Democrats to be completely in control of dictating the process of immigration reform. They would rather have a say in what the immigration policy of this nation is going forward by adjusting their position but not gutting it. For many social conservatives, it is not metaphorically unlike losing a battle so as to still have an army for a war.

So, unfortunately this not the end of partisan conflict. In fact, there never really is one. Partisanship rises and falls with time but never really goes away. The only certainty about politicians is that they will continue to be politicians and do what they can to remain in office and keep their party influential so as to keep their agenda and causes alive.

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