Mike Lillis, The Hill, September 22, 2012
A prominent Hispanic lawmaker is predicting that President Obama and a weakened Republican Party will strike a deal on immigration next year.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez said he’s received no promises from the White House that Obama would move quickly on immigration reform if reelected in November. But the Illinois Democrat said it’s a lock the president would use a second term to revamp the nation’s immigration laws.
Gutierrez predicted the results of November’s elections would prove a game changer, as the sheer number of Latinos voting against Mitt Romney will force GOP leaders to support reforms for fear of alienating those voters indefinitely.
“I’m absolutely positive he’s going to [prioritize immigration reform],” Gutierrez said Friday of Obama, “because the Republicans are going to take such a beating in this election that they’re going to propose [their own plan].”
Romney is working hard to ensure such a beating doesn’t happen, reaching out to Latino voters in a series of recent speeches, Spanish-language ads and interviews with the Hispanic press.
“We’re not going to round up people around the country and deport them,” Romney said Thursday in remarks that were a sharp contrast to the hard-line enforcement focus he adopted during the GOP primaries. “We need to provide a long-term solution.”
Still, Romney’s campaign says he needs 38 percent of the Latino vote to secure a victory, and recent polls put the figure closer to 30 percent.
“The political reality is that the Jeb Bushes, the Marco Rubios and the people like them are going to be empowered after this election,” Gutierrez said.
Late last month, Bush said Republicans aren’t going to close the gap with Hispanic voters until they “stop acting stupid.”
Gutierrez said he’ll spend much of the next six weeks campaigning for Obama in three battleground states where the Latino vote is expected to play a crucial role: Nevada, Colorado and Florida.
“If I’m right, and the road to the White House goes through the barrios of the United States — through Nevada and Colorado and Florida — and it’s the Latino vote that swings the Electoral College,” he said Friday, then immigration reform will be impossible to ignore next year.