Poll Shows Republican Involvement With Immigration Reform Won't Cause Latinos to Vote GOP

Guest workers, gay marriage could all cause immigration negotiations to come crashing down.

Protestors supporting immigration reform gather inside the office of Sen. Mark Rubio, R-Fla., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, following a national bus tour culminating on Capitol Hill.

Protestors supporting immigration reform gather inside the office of Sen. Mark Rubio, R-Fla., on Capitol Hill Wednesday.


Legislators appear closer to achieving comprehensive immigration reform than they have in years. And Republicans are coming out of the woodwork to get their party's stamp on a bill.

In the November presidential election, the GOP got just a quarter of the Latino votes in the country. And the party is hoping softening its rhetoric and fighting hard for immigration reform could help it expand its tent.

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But a Latino Decisions, a Latino public opinion firm, poll out Monday reveals that it is just a first step to get the Latino vote.

An estimated 63 percent of Latinos know someone who is an illegal immigrant making the issue of reform more than a policy decision; its a personal one.

According to the survey, 32 percent of Hispanic voters would be more likely to vote for a Republican candidate if the party showed it was engaged in passing immigration reform and "used party votes" to approve the bill, but nearly 50 percent said it would have absolutely no effect on their vote.

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In another possible scenario, if the Republican-controlled House of Representatives blocked comprehensive immigration legislation, 47 percent of Latino voters said it would not have any impact on how they voted, while 39 percent said they would be less likely to cast a ballot for a GOP candidate.

The long and complicated battle to find common ground on the immigration reform issue has failed before. And while bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are working around the clock to finalize a bill, sticking points remain.

Whether or not the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the country should have to wait in line to get legal status and whether they should be put on a path to citizenship are among the top issues remaining.

The Latino Decisions poll showed 49 percent of Hispanic voters believe that Congress should require illegal immigrants to wait anywhere between one to five years, before they should be allowed to get on a path to citizenship.

[READ: Jeb Bush Immigration Stumble Shows Pol's Rust]

Another issue fraught with peril is determining the number of guest workers allowed in the country.

Labor Unions and business owners disagree on the right number of foreign workers that should be allowed to flow into the country. Unions would prefer the number stays low in order to avoid an influx of workers and force wages down. Whereas groups like the Chamber of Commerce would like to see more guest workers, arguing that foreign workers are sometimes the only ones willing to do jobs Americans either won't do or are not qualified for.

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"The solution may be a market-driven cap where more immigrants come into the country when the economy is good and when the economy is bad, the government allows fewer immigrants," says Brent Wilkes, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a centrist group that fights for comprehensive immigration reform.

But workers are not the only point that could blow up immigration reform.

As if immigration reform was not controversial enough, the issue of gay, binational couples is another area that could bring the negotiations to a screeching halt.

While straight, married couples can sponsor their spouse for green cards, the Defense of Marriage Act bans the federal government from recognizing gay marriages. Therefore, gay couples sometimes must choose to live elsewhere to stay together. The Senate's bipartisan group of lawmakers recognized gay marriage could put a wrench in their negotiations and failed to include provisions to protect gay couples in their framework. Meanwhile, the White House outlined it as of critical importance for them.

On the one hand, Wilkes says that the LBGT community would be an important coalition to mobilize because they are so effective at getting out the vote and building broad coalitions, but lawmakers could risk losing religious leaders who are pushing hard for immigration reform."