If ever the Republicans had a wake-up call in this election year, it came on November 7, a day that will mark the beginning of an era of respect for the Latino voter. Many politicians on the losing side, including House Majority Leader John Boehner, quickly got religious about the need to rethink immigration reform and with it the power of the Latino vote. Suddenly, the conversation for the 2013 agenda shifted. Immigration reform will be a new priority for the next Congress. That’s what happens when 71 percent of Latinos vote for President Barack Obama.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) wasted no time in seizing the moment to unveil a new plan for comprehensive immigration reform.
At a conference at the Center for American Progress, Menendez outlined a new law that would:
Menendez also added that while our border protection service has been successful, and well-funded, it is time to review the challenges at the border and fix them, rather than just throw money at programs that may not necessarily support our security interests.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform may be a steep hill to climb, but it will be one that dominates the political discourse in Washington in the coming months. This was confirmed by Matt Barreto, political scientist and pollster of Latino Decisions. He noted that this was the first time in history that Latino voter margin was greater than the national population vote. But what needs to happen next?
According to Barreto the numbers open the door to many opportunities for new coalitions of business leaders, investors, faith-based communities and political pragmatists to demonstrate that civil rights and economic recovery are connected through the bridge of immigration reform. By turning out in record numbers Latino voters sent a powerful signal to our myopic political leaders that they are no longer second class citizens.
And the DREAM Act? Will it rise up anew? Senator Menendez pointed out that although the Dream Act had been approved in the Senate, a small minority in the House prevented action on this legislation. This could not happen in the future. While “Dreamers” are protected by President Obama’s executive order, ensuring that these future leaders get a chance to contribute to our nation will be a central part of the immigration agenda next year. It makes good economic sense, not to mention it is a matter of fairness.
Will the 2012 election go down in history as the Sixth Great Awakening in American history? Judging from the recent comments of Republicans who never saw this tide of Latino voters coming, it will certainly mark the beginning of a new religion based on more faith in pollsters, and less rhetoric about self-deportation. Stay tuned.