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Ayon: Hispanic Voters Favor Moderate Approach to Immigration Reform

Interviewee: David R. Ayón
Interviewer: Toni Johnson
February 4, 2008

Some experts expect heavy Hispanic voter turnout at the polls this year, in part driven by immigration concerns. Already, record numbers of legal Hispanic immigrants have applied for citizenship, many in hopes of participating in this year’s elections. Immigration continues to play a major role in the presidential race. The issue has proven to be a difficult subject for politicians who must navigate between angering Hispanics, the fastest-growing population in the United States, who mostly favor moderate immigration enforcement, and an increasing number of voters who want to stem the tide of illegal immigrants.

David R. Ayón, an expert in U.S.-Latino politics and U.S. director of the binational Focus Mexico/Enfoque Mexico project at Loyola Marymount University, says the prevailing desire among Hispanics for a moderate approach to immigration helps Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as shown by his significant win among Florida Hispanics over Republican rivals. On the Democratic side, rather than immigration playing a big role, he notes that Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) long-standing ties with prominent Hispanic leaders, who served in her husband’s administration, has given her an edge among Hispanics especially in the Southwest.

While many Hispanics also worry about the economic effects of unfettered illegal immigration, Ayon says most “assume a defensive posture when perceived backlash to immigration has racial or ethnic overtones.” Like many U.S. voters, the economy and the war in Iraq also are significant for many Hispanic voters. He says generally Hispanics would like to see the war come to an end but are “not sold on an immediate exit.”


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