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Immigrants May Impact an Election

With President Obama's executive actions to shield up to five million immigrants from deportation now stalled in the courts, the conventional wisdom is that his proposal is a loser for the administration and the Democrats. Twenty-six states filed suit to stop him and it's safe to say an energized Republican base hasn't been enthusiastic about the president's idea.

But there's some new data that turns that notion on its head. It suggests that the immigrants Obama proposes to help could have an indirect yet potentially decisive impact on key and emerging battleground state electorates.

Those immigrants have citizen family members, most likely their children, who can vote.

That's the argument made by USC sociologist Manuel Pastor and Tom Jawetz and Lizet Ocampo of the DC-based Center for American Progress. Their report is entitled "DAPA Matters: The Growing Electorate Directly Affected by Executive Action on Immigration."

First, a definition: the vast majority of people covered under the Obama plan—some 3.7 million unauthorized immigrants—could qualify for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. (Another 290,000 would qualify under an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.)

According to the new study, 6.3 million U.S. citizens live in the same household as a DAPA-eligible relative. The overwhelming majority of those U.S. citizens are children of a DAPA-eligible immigrant. Out of that pool, there will be 1.5 million new voters by 2016 and 2.25 million by 2020.

Those aren't huge numbers, but what makes them potentially significant is that those voters reside in key and emerging battleground states. And they could be a significant percentage of the margin of victory in states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado.

For example, President Obama won Florida in 2012 by a bit more than 74,000 votes. By 2016, 80 percent of that margin of victory—nearly 60,000 votes—could be cast by voters whose parents were eligible for Obama's plan. By 2020, that percentage climbs to 114 percent—or almost 85,000 votes.

"So it's a very important population and it actually turns out to be disproportionately Latino as well," said Pastor. "About 82 percent of the DAPA-sensitive potential voters in 2016 are Latino and about 85 percent in 2020."

The study examines the potential voter impact in two other states won by President Obama in 2012: Nevada and Colorado, as well as three states won by Governor Mitt Romney: North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia. The percentages vary and admittedly are not quite as dramatic as the Florida example, but they can't be easily dismissed either.

Consider North Carolina where there will be 24,000 "DAPA-affected" voters in 2016 and more than 42,000 by 2020.

Of course, a lot rides on voter turnout and party preference in any given election.

Nevertheless, it appears that upcoming elections in key states will see large numbers of voters who, in the authors' words, "have a strong personal interest in a candidate's position with respect to DAPA."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales
Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.