Ira Mehlman

Similarly, John McCain, who was and remains a champion of amnesty for illegal aliens, failed miserably among Hispanic voters in his 2008 presidential bid. McCain’s 31 percent tally was only marginally better than what Romney received four years later.

Favoring or opposing amnesty for illegal aliens makes virtually no difference to a candidate’s ability to win Hispanic votes. A September 2012 Fox News Latino poll of likely Hispanic voters found that only 6 percent of them rated immigration as the most important issue in determining their votes. Far greater numbers cited the economy (48%), health care (14%) and a host of other issues as being more important to them.

The problem for Republicans is that on the issues that Hispanics really do care about, they find the Democrats’ positions far more to their liking. Hispanics tend to be significantly poorer than the population as a whole and, not coincidentally, far more likely to support big government. Seventy-five percent of Hispanics in the U.S. want government to provide more services and benefits, compared with only 19 percent who want smaller government.

Those attitudes about the role of government cannot be ignored by Republicans who cast themselves as the party lower taxes and smaller government. Worse yet, first generation Hispanics, i.e. immigrants, favor bigger government by an even wider, 81%-12% margin. In other words, there is every rational reason to expect that if Republicans were to support the amnesty and immigration increases being urged by the president and others, their reward would be an even smaller slice of a much bigger pie.

The Republican Party would have a better chance of repairing its tarnished image with Hispanic voters and others by offering an alternative vision for immigration reform. Such a vision would address the core concerns of Hispanic and other voters about jobs and economic opportunity.

Republicans would be better served by demanding that President Obama enforce existing immigration laws, allowing the 20 million-plus unemployed and underemployed Americans a shot at the jobs that already exist. Instead of bending to business’s demands for more foreign labor, they would serve their own political interests by opposing immigration increases and allowing American workers a chance at upward mobility for a change.

Sometimes good policy also makes good politics. It is now up to House Republicans to seize the opportunity.

Ira Mehlman

Ira Mehlman is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.