Supreme Court’s Split Elevates Immigration as Election Issue

Mike Dorning, Bloomberg, June 23, 2016

The Supreme Court’s deadlock on President Barack Obama’s immigration plan pushes one of the year’s most divisive political issues to the forefront, with Latino voter registration already surging in an apparent reaction to Donald Trump’s campaign.

{snip} The decision is likely to further energize Latino voters already mobilized by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Obama called the deadlock “heartbreaking” for undocumented immigrants and their families and said he believes he is out of options on the issue. “I don’t anticipate that there are any additional executive actions that we can take,” he told reporters Thursday after the court announced the tie vote.

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“It’s going to create a renewed sense of panic and fear,” said Fernand Amandi, a principal at Bendixen & Amandi, a Miami-based market research firm that did work for Obama’s 2012 campaign. “You’re not just voting for president: You’re voting on whether friends, family, neighbors or colleagues get to stay in the country.”

Republicans, meanwhile, “have a big demographic problem,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and lobbyist who backs Trump. “We have to expand our base to be competitive in future elections. But for this particular election I can see scenarios where it helps both sides. There’s a bigger untapped pool of white voters who resent immigration, and they will flock to Trump.”

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Given the intensity of feelings on immigration and the focus on the issue in the Republican primary, the Supreme Court’s deadlock may have only a marginal additional impact, said Charles Cook, editor and publisher of the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

“The battle lines are drawn and the coalitions are formed,” Cook said.

“You have increasing numbers of minority voters who believe the Republican party is of, by and for whites and looks down on anybody else,” Cook said. “It is very, very clear where most working-class whites are: they see trade and immigration as threats to their jobs and their lifestyles.”

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When Gallup pollsters asked Americans the single most important challenge for the next president to address, immigration outstripped all other issues except the economy.

Immigration was cited by 14 percent, behind 19 percent who said the economy, according to the May 18-22 poll. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 17 percent called immigration the most important issue in the election.

“In the end, it is my firm belief that immigration is not something to fear,” Obama said.

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