The importance that immigrants play in an election year is never going to be more visible than this time around. They are such a force to be reckoned with that the political figures are bending over backwards to win their favor. The Obama Administration began its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program right in time for the official start of the campaign back in June.
Even though Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has demonstrated to have a harsh stance on immigration (which coincides with the GOP’s), he has toned down some of the rhetoric and saying that he would not deport DACA beneficiaries although stating he does not support the program. Now as the presidential campaign is in full swing, the two presidential candidates are going above and beyond to court immigrant voters as well as those second and third generation Americans. According to the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at the University of Southern California, those who have recently become naturalized citizens will have the most impact in the election given that they are the most motivated around immigration issues.
The importance of naturalized citizens is astounding. If we look back at the 2004 presidential election many key states were decided by low margins of victory. The margin of victory in Nevada was only 2.6%, and it is a state where 5.1% of the voters consisted of recent naturalized citizens. The margins of Victory in Florida and Colorado were around 5%, with 6% comprising the voting population in Florida and 2.1% percent in Colorado. Given the upsurge in voter registration rates, the significance of the immigrant population keeps growing.
As the study indicated, “the rise of the naturalized voter may help contribute to a more civil and balanced conversation about immigration—one in which political leaders and parties propose realistic solutions on immigration policy so that both voters and political leaders can concentrate on other important issues such as the economy and healthcare.” As a result of the growing power of the immigrant voter, it will become ever more rare for politicians with harsh anti-immigrant stances to win elections. Political leaders need immigrants now more than ever, and they are coming to terms with that fact.