Democrats should pin down the GOP on immigration

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After the nation's immigrants have remarkably demonstrated their power in numbers on the streets of the nation and in the workplace, they are talking about moving on to the ballot box.

But will they?

Their record of participation up to now in elections has been dismal, especially among Hispanics, the largest group. Perhaps their newly found muscle will fire up more enthusiasm to vote. Democrats should hope so.

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization, published a significant report last year on the 2004 election. An entire chapter was devoted to the Latino vote and its low numbers.

For example, based on their numbers in the overall population, Latinos voted at a rate of only 18 percent. The vote among whites was at 51 percent, and among African-Americans it was 39 percent.

The Pew report said the high number of underage Latinos and the large numbers of noncitizens accounted in great part for the low number. But there were other statistics just as glaring to prove the point of a low turnout in November 2004.

If Democrats want to take advantage of the current political climate, they can pin the donkey on the tail of Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin. His immigration legislation in the House is a punitive measure designed to treat illegals as felons. He is the symbol of GOP conservatism run amok in the House, and he's got some companions.

Democratic strategists should make clear what is going on in Congress to, for starters, the heavily Latino states of California, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and New York. GOP incumbents and candidates should be pinned down on the issue.

The opportunity this November to awaken the heretofore-sleepy Latino vote isn't likely to come around again soon.

President Bush sought to pick up more GOP support in the Latino community in the last election and was marginally successful in a few states. But those gains should evaporate if Democrats move aggressively this off year.

The Democrats have been known in the past to form a circle for a firing squad. If they miss the chance this year on the immigration issue handed them, they deserve to remain in the minority in the House and Senate.