Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After Census, Texas Leads Way on Immigration Politics

Census numbers are out today and Texas will pick up four seats in the House of Representatives.

The Texas Tribune has the numbers, "
Apportionment Nets Texas Four New Congressional Seats." And Bloomberg reports on how the state's Latino population is responding, "Texas Hispanics to Challenge Status Quo in Reapportionment."

And see New York Times, "
After Dream Act Setback, Eyeing a Sleeping Giant":
HOUSTON — About 37 percent of Texas residents are of Hispanic origin, and the state has a long history of welcoming newcomers who work hard and obey the law. So the state would seem likely to support a bill to grant citizenship to thousands of foreign-born college students.

Yet the two Republican Senators from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both voted to block the bill, known as the Dream Act, from coming up for a vote on Saturday.

Neither senator was moved by protests and hunger strikes in San Antonio, nor by calls from religious leaders to pass the bill, nor by newspaper articles about the children of undocumented immigrants who had made it to college, only to be picked up for traffic violations and threatened with deportation.

Their votes are another sign of how strong the reaction to illegal immigration has grown among Republicans in Texas, a state where Mexicans, with visas or without, have always been an integral part of the society.

Beyond anger about Washington’s spending, immigration policy was also on the agenda of many of the conservatives who came out in droves to vote in the November midterm elections.

The question now is whether the failure of the Dream Act will create a backlash among Hispanic voters against the Republicans in power.

It has already become a cause for some young Hispanics in Texas. One group of hunger strikers in San Antonio has vowed to use the defeat as a rallying cry to build a broad movement for an immigration overhaul.

“There is a lot of anger, disillusionment,” said Arturo Chavez, the president of a Catholic organization in San Antonio who lobbied for the bill. “But all the young people I talk to are even more determined than ever.”

The political winds seem against them, however. Since the election, Texas lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills intended to discourage illegal immigration, chief among them an Arizona-style law making it a crime to be in the state without a visa.

The Republican tide in November gave the party a two-thirds majority in the State House, prompting one Hispanic Democrat to switch parties recently.

What is more, the Dream Act was supposed to be the easy part of the immigration overhaul to pass, a law that taps into notions of meritocracy. Proponents say they are dismayed that such a moderate measure could not win passage even with a Democratic president and Democratic majorities in both chambers.
The Texas GOP risks a backlash, although the Bloomberg report cites Republican Blake Farenthold from Brownsville, on the Mexican border, who is optimistic:
"South Texans are mainly Catholics with traditional values and people who value a hard day’s work ... We’ve done a poor job until this election of getting that message across."
The GOP majority in the legislature, which will control the redistricting process, will likely pack Latino voters into key districts, hence diluting that bloc's impact on state politics.

This story is developing. Republicans will gain power at the national level. Expect updates, but see National Journal, "An Embarrassment of GOP Riches," and Politico, "
The Reapportionment Rundown." Plus, at NYT, "Census Data Show 308 Million People and a Regional Shift."