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Study: A Million Legal Immigrants a Year Is Remaking America

Matt Vespa
By Matt Vespa | April 15, 2014 | 11:16 AM EDT

If conservatives are feeling weary about immigration reform spelling their doom in elections, then this study will firmly entrench those sentiments. James G. Gimpel, Professor of Government at the University of Maryland, has produced a new report for the Centers for Immigration Studies on the subject, which is rather doom and gloom for Republicans.

Here are three of the key findings:

  • First, the enormous flow of legal immigrants in to the country - 29.5 million 1980 to 2012 - has remade and continues to remake the nation's electorate in favor of the Democratic Party.
  • Second, the partisan impact of immigration is relatively uniform throughout the country- from California to Texas to Florida - even though local Republican parties have taken different positions on illegal immigration. The decline does not seem to vary with the local Republican Party's position on illegal immigration.
  • Third, if legal immigration levels remain at the current levels of over one million a year, it will likely continue to undermine Republicans' political prospects moving forward. Further, if the substantial increases in legal immigration in Senate's Gang of Eight bill (S.744) were to become law it would accelerate this process. Conversely, lowering the level of legal immigration in the future would help stem the decline in the Republican vote.

Additionally, immigrants, especially Asians and Hispanics, find liberal programs more palatable than conservative ones, according to Gimpel.  Given that immigrants are usually in the lower income brackets, they're going to favor the redistributionist policies often seen within liberal circles.

Gimpel concludes his findings by saying:

Across all U.S. counties, including the many smaller counties, the estimated effect of immigration is to drop Republican vote share about two percentage points. Even in seemingly remote locations with negligible immigrant populations, the effect is sufficient to move a 51 percent county to a 49 percent county. Aggregated over the large number of counties and viewed through the template of the Electoral College's winner-take-all system of elections, the impact of immigration is easily sufficient, by itself, to decide upcoming presidential elections.

Ironically, past Republican votes in Congress in favor of a more generous immigration policy have unquestionably bolstered local Democratic majorities, and succeeded in stamping out Republican prospects in once politically competitive locales. This is because Republicans have not converted the legions of Democratic-leaning Latinos who constitute a large share of the immigrant population.

This new report seems to confirm his 2010 findings where he also noted the voter share of counties dropping, failed Hispanic outreach on behalf of conservatives, and pro-immigration policies backed by conservatives that have made competitive counties lean more to the left.

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