Immigration reform has passed the Senate, and Ohio will play a key role in moving it through the House. The Senate bill was approved by every Democrat and around 1/3 of Republicans. Those numbers are on par with the Violence Against Women Act and the extension of tax cuts, both of which passed the House.

Despite promising The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Ohio that he would support the bill, Rob Portman feebly voted against it because he’s afraid of losing racist voters. Sorry, I meant “he wants to set up a mandatory federal bureaucracy for every worker in America before we stop deporting people”.

The ball is now in House Speaker Boehner’s court. He can either advance the Senate bill or kill it. The only reason that Boehner wouldn’t bring it to the floor is if he doesn’t want more Latino citizens.

As Ohioans, it’s important that we pressure the Speaker to pass immigration reform–especially since his is the most Latino district in the state. As progressives, it’s important that we make Latino civil rights as central to our organizing as we do workers’ rights, women’s rights, and African-American rights. As people who live in a low-growth state, it’s essential to our economy that we increase immigration.

Unless the Republican Party starts representing Latino voters, it will cease to be a viable national party through electoral means. The past few weeks have laid bare the two roads it can take to power.

The reason? In 2028, Texas will have the same ethnic makeup as Los Angeles.


This is the ethnic makeup of Texas in 2010.

under 18 over 18 over 651
Latino 3.32 million 6.14 million 0.52 million
white 2.32 million 9.07 million 1.68 million
African-American 0.81 million 2.08 million 0.26 million
Asian-American 0.23 million 0.72 million 0.13 million

There are also 2.5 million immigrants in Texas. The ethnic breakdown is 50% Latino, 24% white, and 26% “other”. 

In 18 years, everybody currently under 18 will be an eligible voter and very few people currently older than 65 will be around. That gives you 14 million minority voters to 10 million white voters.

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.41.58 PM

Luke, this seems like an excellent reason for Speaker Boehner to sit on the immigration bill!

I think that’s an even worse idea for Boehner. Here’s how the 2012 election went1:

2012 Dem % 2012 elig. voters 2012 voters turnout Romney votes Obama votes
White 21% 8.95 m 5.04 m 56% 3.98 m 1.04 m
Latino 71% 4.18 m 1.47 m 35% 0.43 m 1.04 m
A-A 93% 2.02 m 1.19 m 59% 0.08 m 1.11 m
Asian 73% 0.46 m 0.17 m 37% 0.05 m 0.12 m
total 15.6 m 7.88 m 4.57 m 3.31 m

Texas has the lowest voter participation in the country2. If Texas voters participated at the same rates as Florida voters, Romney would have won 54-463. Same voters, just more turnout.

By 2028, the Democrats will win Texas if Latino turnout is just 40%. If turnout is 50%, they’ll win in 2024. In 2020, if turnout is 2 points higher in Latinos than whites, Texas will flip.

But let’s say that Latino voters respond to the blatant racism of sitting on the bill the same way that African-American voters responded to Reagan’s racism (by going from 70% Democratic in 1972 to 90% Democratic). Then we get 66% Latino turnout, with 93% Democratic support.

If that happened last year, Obama would have gotten 53% of the vote in Texas.

Let me say that again, nice and bold, in case the Speaker is skimming this: if Latinos vote Democratic the way that African-Americans vote Democratic, Republicans will lose Texas next year.

And yet House Republicans are tempting fate by saying outright that they’re more concerned with white voters than with Latino voters.

Immigration Reform

The bill that passed the Senate isn’t great, but it isn’t bad. It wastes a ton of money on “border security” and using drone surveillance on Americans. It takes 13 years for current undocumented immigrants to become citizens. It sets up a guest worker program that will surely be abused. It excludes immigrants from Obamacare, which will make providers crazy.

I’m willing to overlook those flaws for the quality of life improvement in places like Price Hill, Carthage, and Butler County. Latino neighborhoods in Cincinnati are targeted by crime because of the assumption that witnesses and victims will be unwilling to speak to authorities. Employers are constantly exploiting workers due to a lack of legal protection. Human traffickers will lose their main coercive tool: the threat of deportation.

Latino Decisions released a poll that shows Marco Rubio polling at 28% among Latinos if the House fails to pass immigration reform. If immigration reform passes and Rubio is credited for its passage, his support jumps to 54%. The same was true of Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan.

That means that a quarter of Latino voters are open to voting Republican, if only the Republicans would stop sounding like bigots. Alas, that seems too much to ask.

That last one is Sean Trende’s analysis at Real Clear Politics, where his axiom is that the GOP can either increase its performance among whites or among Latinos. Think about that: he assumes that 1/4 of white Obama voters will switch to a Republican who opposes immigration.

Boehner’s Choice

So, John Boehner has a choice. Out of all the scenarios4, Texas votes GOP longer if he reform passes.

1. He can personally and individually kill immigration reform. It will then be clear that, as long as the Republican Party holds either chamber, there will be widespread institutional racism against Latinos.

The only hope for the national Republican Party will then be to stem the tide with Kafkaesque voter requirements that only apply to Latinos and African-Americans, and foment racial resentment among whites by setting up public subsidies for most white people’s health care, while spending money to deny health insurance to minorities.

There’s a name for that: Jim Crow.

2. The Speaker can tell the racists to kick rocks. He can bring immigration reform up for a clean vote, and he can set up a reasonable mechanism for preclearance on the VRA, and use it nationwide.

These are both simple solutions that have solid support in both parties. They are bedrock principles of what America likes to think it is. And there’s no reason to avoid those two things, unless he’s afraid of losing votes from racists.

Hell, if he does those two things, the Republicans will gain a bunch of African-American and Latino voters! As well they should.

But if he doesn’t do it–as he announced this evening he wouldn’t–our refrain will be pretty simple: John Boehner wants the votes of racists more than he wants the votes of minorities.


1 I’m probably overestimating Latino support for Obama and white support for Romney. There was no exit polling in Texas, so I’m reverse engineering from the final result. My point is even stronger if only 60% of Texas Latinos voted for Obama, as it would mean that Tejanos vote like Cubans. The “under 18” Latinos in Texas aren’t Tejano (Hispanic Texans who were part of secession from Mexico), they’re descended from immigrants.

Latino-Americans who are related to recent immigrants care a lot more about immigration reform than do 7th generation Americans.

2 Anecdotally, this is because Latinos in Texas don’t feel represented by the Texas Democratic Party. Since Rick Perry was originally a Texas Democrat, it’s hard to blame them.

3 Here’s the math.

turnout Romney Obama
white 61% 4.31 m 1.15 m
Latino 62% 0.75 m 1.84 m
A-A 66% 0.09 m 1.24 m
Asian 55% 0.07 m 0.18 m
total 5.22 m 4.41 m

4 Here are 7 alternate scenarios for the baseline Democratic vote share. I’ve low-balled the number of eligible Latino voters in each of these scenarios. I’ve also assumed that older Latinos are as Democratic as younger Latinos (in Texas, they’re far more conservative).

 no reform  no reform, parity reform reform, parity no reform, Latino move no reform, Latino move, parity reform, GOP gains, parity
2012 42.8% 45.6% 45% 48.4% 46.8% 51.3% 47.5%
2016 43.9% 46.9% 46% 49.4% 48.3% 53.1% 48%
2020 44.9% 48% 46.8% 50.2% 49.7% 54.7% 48.5%
2024 45.8% 48.9% 47.5% 51% 51% 56.1% 48.9%
2028 46.6% 49.8% 48.3% 51.7% 52.1% 57.4% 49.2%
2032 47.4% 50.6% 48.9% 52.4% 53.2% 58.6% 49.5%
  1. No reform: everything stays the same
  2. no reform, parity: immigration reform fails, but Latinos and Asians respond by voting at the same rate as African-Americans and whites
  3. Reform: immigration reform passes, but Latinos and Asians continue to vote at a low rate
  4. Reform, parity: immigration reform passes, and Latinos and Asians respond by voting in large numbers
  5. no reform, Latino move: immigration reform fails, and the Latino reaction is the same as the African-American reaction to Reagan–but turnout remains low
  6. no reform, Latino move, parity: immigration reform fails, Latinos turn against the GOP and vote in large numbers
  7. reform, GOP gains, parity: immigration reform passes, GOP gets 45% of Latino vote because of it but drops to 70% of the white vote (inexplicably), and everybody votes at the same rate
  8. reform, GOP gains: I didn’t include the math on this one. Needless to say, if this happens they hold Texas indefinitely

In the 4 scenarios that reform passes the GOP wins Texas in 2032 in 3 of them. In the 4 scenarios where reform fails, they only win 2032 in 1 of them.

So, unless they think Latino voting behavior is completely divorced from immigration policy and anti-Latino discrimination, the GOP is best served by passing reform.