Alexander Bolton, The Hill, July 12, 2014
Immigration reform has fizzled as an issue for Democrats, who are barely mentioning it on the campaign trail despite making the issue their top domestic priority in 2013 and 2014.
Latino voters, who are the most energized about overhauling the nation’s immigration laws, will have little impact on the battle for control of the Senate, with the possible exception of Sen. Mark Udall’s (D) race in Colorado.
White working-class voters will play a more important role in the midterm election compared to the 2012 presidential election. They are not energized by immigration reform. Instead, they are concerned about downward pressure on wages, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has linked to higher immigration levels.
Coincidentally, President Obama’s support among white voters without college degrees has steadily eroded.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has led the effort in Congress to link high immigration flows to stagnant wages but many Republican lawmakers have not joined in because the business community wants more guest workers and visas for high-skilled employees.
Despite the lack of concerted effort by GOP leaders in Washington to use immigration reform as a weapon against Democrats, the issue could hurt them among white working-class voters who are slipping away from Obama.
Polling by Rasmussen, a GOP survey group, showed working and middle-class Americans oppose large expansions of immigration flows. People earning under $30,000 prefer a reduction in immigration by a 3-1 margin, according to the group’s data.
A Pew Research poll showed that 69 percent of the public believes the federal government should restrict and control people coming to live in the United States more than it already does.
CBO estimated the average wages for the entire labor force would be 0.1 percent lower in 2023 if the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill became law. But it projected wages would be 0.5 percent higher in 2033 under the bill compared to current law.