Offered a stark choice on the illegal immigration issue, Florida Latino Republicans today broke nearly 2-1 for the candidate with the firmest opposition to amnesty and the strongest support for enforcement.
It was a strong rebuke of the majority of media commentators who insist that Latino-Americans can only be won by promising rewards for lawbreaking. It added a sign of much greater dignity in the rule of law for the Latino population than most in the media are willing to give it.
And it was a victory for the concept of self-deportation as an alternative to mass deportation and mass legalization.
Nobody can say that Floridians -- both Latino and non-Latino -- weren't provided a clear choice on the immigration issue. Immigration may not have been a top issue for most of the voters but it was one of the most publicized parts of the debates and contest.
- Newt Gingrich campaigned hard among Latino voters with his continuing call for legalization and work permits for many illegal aliens and his pounding criticism of his opponent as "anti-immigrant" for opposing legalization.
- Mitt Romney in two debates continued his campaign-long opposition to long-term work permits and legalization of illegal aliens and created a national media sensation by talking about "self-deportation" as the top goal for the illegal population.
Florida Republicans went strongly for Romney (46% to 32%), but the Latinos among them went for the anti-amnesty, pro-self-deportation candidate by an even greater margin.
As I write this, the CNN page on exit polling shows this as the Latino voting results:
Romney -- 54%
Gingrich -- 29%
Whites -- Anti-legalization Romney won by 13 percentage points
Latinos -- Anti-legalization Romney won by 25 percentage points
If you surf the internet for analysis from every type of news media, you will find scores of claims that Romney has a huge problem with Latino-Americans because he doesn't support amnesty. Yes, they acknowledged that Florida Republican Latinos are different from those in other states because of more Cubans in the mix, but they still predicted an uphill battle for any candidate who has taken such a strong stance against mass legalization as has Romney.
The results don't prove that Romney's anti-amnesty stance helped him with Latinos. But the results DO prove that a candidate can stand for the rule of law and for preferring unemployed American workers over illegal aliens and still win Latino support.
And that is a wonderful victory of the image of Latino-Americans and for all of us in our battle to say that unemployed Americans should have priority over illegal aliens for U.S. jobs.
Tonight's victor, Romney, put the issue in exactly those terms in the Jacksonville debate last Thursday night. Romney said: "You know, our problem is not 11 million grandmothers. Our problem is (APPLAUSE) . . . Our problem is 11 million people getting jobs that many Americans (and) legal immigrants would like to have."
Although that got one of the most enthusiastic rounds of applause of the debate, nearly all of the news media refused to offer that quote to the public. I believe that is because most reporters and editors in the news media refuse to believe it is possible that Americans and legal immigrants already here would take the construction, service and manufacturing jobs currently held by illegal aliens.
EXIT POLL'S IMMIGRATION CHOICES SHOW CONTINUING LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
Unfortunately, we learn almost nothing from the exit poll question about immigration because it leaves out "self-deportation" or its other name, "attrition through enforcement."
Voters were only asked if they support a solution for illegal aliens that involves (a) citizenship, (b) guest worker status or (c) deportation.
Despite Romney and Rick Santorum's advocacy for "(d) self-deportation" throughout the campaign, the pollsters refused to even include the option.
For the most part, most in the news media still refuse to treat our solution of attrition through enforcement (self-deportation) as an option at all. The obstinancy of the news media to include this option in opinion polls over the last decade has seriously distorted the public's understanding of the options available to it on illegal immigration. And it reminds us of just how incredibly important it is that candidates Romney and Santorum are using their national soapboxes to fight for the concept.
-- ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Jan 31st 2012 @ 11:26pm EST