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Immigration proponents get new data to support reform cause

As the Senate prepares to begin debate on immigration reform, advocates for the legislation are pointing to yet more data showing that Republicans stand to make political strides if they are perceived as embracing the new law.

According to a new survey released Thursday by polling group Latino Decisions and pro-reform group America’s Voice, 45 percent of Latino registered voters say they would be more likely to support a Republican candidate in the future if the party takes “a leadership role” in passing a comprehensive reform bill, a stable finding from a similar survey in March.

There is “huge potential to move and swing the Latino vote based on this issue,” said Latino Decisions pollster Matt Barreto in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

The survey also showed that while Latinos have a less favorable opinion of the GOP than their Democratic counterparts, Republicans and Democrats will both be on the hook if the legislation fails.

Asked which party will be “most responsible” if the bill is not passed, nearly half of respondents said both parties will be to blame. Thirty-nine percent said only Republicans would be responsible, while just 9 percent said only Democrats.

Proponents have reiterated that they will push to keep out changes to a bipartisan immigration bill in the Senate that would stiffen border security requirements – including an amendment proposed by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and crafted with the backing of original Gang of Eight member Marco Rubio.

“Do I think that the Senate immigration bill can pass the Senate by the end of June by a 2-1 margin? Yes,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice. “Do I think that John Cornyn is the key to getting there? No.”

“I think he’s being mischievous, devious and destructive,” he added.  

The Senate is expected to begin initial debate on the bipartisan immigration bill Friday, and will vote on bringing the bill to the floor next week.

The new data also comes as House Republicans passed a measure sponsored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would end the authority of the Department of Homeland Security to delay deportation of young undocumented immigrants and other “low-priority” individuals who are in the country illegally. Reform advocates said the amendment, which only six Republican members opposed in the 224-201 vote, amounts to the forced deportation of DREAMers – immigrants who came to the country as children.

That’s the wrong track for the party’s political future, reform proponents said.

“When uncontrolled, House Republicans are willing to destroy the lives of DREAMers in a play to a dwindling base of anti-immigrant Republican primary voters,” Ana Avendano, the director of immigration at the AFL-CIO, said in a statement. “We hope and expect that the leadership of the Republican party will understand that this is not only abhorrent policy but suicidal politics.”

That’s in part because of data showing that as many as two-thirds of respondents in the Latino Decisions poll know an undocumented immigrant personally, advocates said.

“This issue is about family and community,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, director of immigration policy for the National Council of La Raza. “It is deeply personal.”

The poll interviewed 500 registered Latino voters between May 25 and June 1. The margin of error was +/- 4.4 percent.