Soros-backed group vows one million new Hispanic voters for 2016
A group made up of Hispanic organizations is vowing to sign up one million legal immigrants, make them citizens, and then get them to the polls in 2016.
The National Partnership for New Americans, an umbrella organization partly funded by the George Soros Open Society Foundation, wants the new voters to punish Republicans and Donald Trump for their views on immigration.
There are about 9 million legal immigrant residents who are eligible to take the citizenship test, so some advocates say that signing up a million of them is possible.
Hispanic leaders insist they are ready to flex political muscles commensurate with their size as the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the country behind whites.
Hispanic immigrants, however, have shown a lower propensity to naturalize in the U.S. and have lower turnout rates overall than other demographic groups, challenging the community’s leaders to get them more motivated.
They hope Mr. Trump has taken care of that for them this year with his stern stance on illegal immigration.
An estimated 8.8 million immigrants have been in the U.S. for at least five years as legal permanent residents, making them eligible to apply for citizenship, according to a study by the Center for American Progress. They are heavily Hispanic, and 30 percent of them are Mexican.
That was the population Mr. Trump appeared to target when, in announcing his campaign, he vowed to crack down on illegal immigrants. He said Mexico sent rapists and other bad elements of society to the U.S.
The advocates are also counting on citizens to rally on immigration — particularly young Hispanics whose families are touched by the debate over President Obama’s executive actions.
But some conservative Hispanic activists think it's insulting to believe that Hispanics would "punish" a political party over one issue.
Alfonso Aguilar, a top immigration official in the Bush administration and now executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said Mr. Trump has indeed inflamed Hispanic voters, but he said to assume that they will vote more broadly to punish Republicans does a disservice to them.
“That is the most insulting comment — not only to the Republican candidates, because it’s simply not true, but also to Latinos. It’s just crass pandering to Latinos to get their vote,” Mr. Aguilar said.
He said the other Republican presidential candidates need to publicly disagree with Mr. Trump and forcefully distance themselves to make clear that they want to compete for Hispanic voters.
“This is the situation that we have, a sad situation. Trump’s sucking the air out of the room,” he said.
Mr. Aguilar, who ran the citizenship office in the Bush administration, said getting legal permanent residents to naturalize is an important goal, but he also doubted whether the effort would work.
“In a way, they may be shooting themselves in the foot. If they don’t get to a million, it shows that their theory they’re going to use Trump to get to a million didn’t work,” he said.
This effort is based on some false assumptions that Mr. Aguilar hints at – namely, the growing diversity within the Hispanic demographic. Talking of legal immigrants, Mexicans are different from immigrants from Central America, who are different from immigrants from Cuba, who are different from immigrants from many South American countries. The Hispanic vote is no longer monolithic and Mexican.
Mexicans will be making up a smaller percentage of Hispanic voters going forward. This does not necessarily mean that more Hispanics will vote Republican. But it means there is an opportunity for the GOP to make inroads in that bloc. Immigrants of every race and creed want one thing above all else: opportunity. They want the chance for their kids to have a better life than the parents had. Basing a campaign geared toward Hispanics that points out the stark contrast between the two parties on opportunity – where Democrats seek to limit opportunity to make minorities dependent on government while the GOP supports policies that expand opportunities for all – could make significant progress in attracting Hispanics to the Republican Party.