Washington (CNSNews.com) – Americans are “not concerned” that they may lose jobs to illegal aliens in a tight job market, according to speakers at a panel discussion conducted Thursday in Washington, D.C., by the National Council of La Raza.
Simon Rosenberg, president and CEO of NDN – formerly the New Democrat Network -- said that Republicans are now “paying a steep price for demonizing Hispanics” in their “anti-immigration rhetoric” – rhetoric that he said created the “fear of losing jobs to undocumented immigrants of Americans.”
Research conducted for La Raza, which describes itself as the “largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States,” indicates that Americans are “more concerned” with undocumented immigrants “being able to pay their fair share of taxes,” Rosenberg said, than they are of losing jobs to illegals.
When asked if he still felt that American jobs would not be threatened by undocumented immigrants despite the fact the current unemployment rate is now at a 14-year high of 6.5 percent, Rosenberg told CNSNews.com that he believes undocumented immigrants have taken jobs that Americans “do not want,” but that there “might be” a shift in concern if unemployment rates continue to rise.
David Mermin, a partner at Lake Research Partners, a national public opinion and political strategy research firm hired by La Raza to study American voters, said 62 percent of American voters are now “more interested in converting illegal immigrants into legal taxpayers than deporting them because they might be taking jobs.”
In terms of steps to becoming “legal,” Mermin explained that “paying taxes, passing a criminal background check and learning English” are the most important factors to voters.
La Raza President Janet Murguia, meanwhile, said the fact that Latino voters turned out in unprecedented numbers to support Democratic candidates last week puts the Hispanic vote in the Democrat column – for the moment.
“Democrats can put Latinos in the (blue) column for now, but not forever,” Murguia said, adding -- “They should not rest on their laurels.”
“Latinos are swing voters -- if we don’t see action, we will seek it from somewhere else,” Murguia added.
She said that Democrats “must act on the issues that Americans care about” – including comprehensive immigration reform.
Pollster Mermin said his data revealed a large majority of American voters “broadly support” comprehensive immigration reform -- and that supporters of enforcement-only policies, such as raids on employers, “may be loud, but there aren’t very many of them.”
Mermin said 67 percent of both Obama and McCain voters support a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants, compared to just 10 percent of Obama voters and 20 percent of McCain voters who say that illegal immigrants “must leave the country.”
Murguia said that Hispanics “heard directly” from President-elect Obama that he “understood how destructive raids are” and that while she does not expect a moratorium on immigration raids, she does hope for a “vigorous conversation” on immigration to commence with the new administration.
Rosenberg added that American’ attitudes toward race have changed and that Republicans will have to “make peace” with the Hispanic community and work towards immigration reform or they will see their electoral map shift from red to blue “for a generation.”
He added that Americans are “not supportive of amnesty,” but was quick to clarify that comprehensive immigration reform “is not amnesty” in that its provisions expect undocumented immigrants to comply with such rules as paying fines and taxes, “going to the back of the line,” undergoing a “criminal background check” and a lengthy process of naturalization.
When asked if stricter border enforcement should be a part of immigration reform to protect new undocumented immigrants from acquiring jobs, Rosenberg said that strict border enforcement was “always a part of immigration reform” measures that were put forth and would continue to be.
His “advice” to Democrats: “If you want to get re-elected, pass comprehensive immigration reform.”