Newsflash: Talk About Immigration—It Works!

By Daisy Hernandez Jul 09, 2008

I confess. I’m a sucker for pollsters. I know they’re never saying anything new or fascinating, but the sound of someone rattling off numbers that reflect a party’s political strategy that might affect the outcome in November….hooks me every time. The appeal, I suspect, is that I want to believe adding up this and that will lead to a nice and tidy answer…. Like if all the Latinos in Nevada show up at the polls in November and vote on the immigration issue, then that might mean… Oh! But remember the Cubans and Puerto Ricans in Florida for whom immigration is not such a big deal (um, fyi, they’re citizens and pollsters don’t think they care as much about their larger Latino family). If they go to the polls in record numbers, then… Maybe the appeal of pollsters is just trivia. Listen to a pollster and you have a new soundbite to share over drinks. Like, did you know that between 9 and 10 percent of voters in November will be Latino? And that at least half of those are Spanish dominant? And that Nevada has more Latinos than Colorado and New Mexico? That was my trivia bit from a phone conference today on immigration by America’s Voice. The group is launching a new website to track immigration in the election and they’re also going to be doing exit polls in November. In addition to numbers, the pollsters at the conference shared a secret: when you get a candidate to talk about immigration, it works! Voters don’t even care if they disagree with the solution. They want a candidate who can say, "Immigration—it’s a problem." Duh. Now that we’ve got that down, maybe we can move on to have candidates talk about immigrants as people with families and communities or about immigrants being targeted on the basis of race (you don’t see the undocumented Irish on the nightly news). America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry, I have to say, made a solid point, one that I wish more people would take up: immigration is a family issue. As he said, families live in homes where everyone’s status can be different. In my own home, for example, we had one of just about everything. There was citizenship based on exile (my Cuban dad), a citizenship with few rights (my Puerto Rican uncle) and various stages of green cards, papers in the works and family reunification (my Colombian mother, Colombian aunties and one Peruvian uncle). It’s on us to push the media and policymakers to see immigration as we do: a family issue. We can’t wait until pollsters figures out that it works. Although when they do, I’ll be listening.