The persistent right-wing talking point that immigration reform would bring in anywhere from 11 million to as many as 30 million new Democratic voters has definitively been exposed as a myth.
The charge, pushed by Fox News, rests on the bogus allegation that because the Senate immigration reform bill includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, those new citizens would then be eligible to vote for Democrats.
As Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin wrote in a syndicated column arguing that “illegal alien amnesty violates our founding principles,” “Unrepentant amnesty peddlers on both sides of the aisle admit their plan is all about votes and power.” She continued:
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain continues his craven, futile chase for the Hispanic bloc. Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez is openly salivating at the prospect of millions of new illegal aliens -- future Democratic Party dependents of the Nanny State -- who could be eligible for Obamacare and a plethora of other government benefits despite clear prohibitions against them.
On Fox, contributor Monica Crowley echoed the argument, claiming that the Senate immigration reform bill “has nothing to do with immigration.” She added: “The Democrats have played this brilliantly. This is about flooding the zone with new Democratic voters so they can get a permanent voting majority.”
Pundit Ann Coulter, who regularly appears on Fox to bash immigration reform, escalated the claim on Sean Hannity's radio show, asserting that reform “is all about getting the Democrats 30 million more votes, which we'll have in about a decade.”
Rush Limbaugh has also repeatedly pushed the idea that Democrats are supporting immigration reform because “they want 11 million new voters.” On one of his radio broadcasts, he ridiculously claimed: “You get amnesty, you get your 60 million permanent underclass Democrat voters.”
The Daily Caller wrote that “Democratic priorities ... call for a quick 'path to citizenship' to ensure the new immigrants can vote for Democratic candidates as soon as five or ten years after passage of the law.”
Even Politico fell for the myth, writing in an April 22 article: “The immigration proposal pending in Congress would transform the nation's political landscape for a generation or more -- pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now in ways that, if current trends hold, would produce an electoral bonanza for Democrats and cripple Republican prospects in many states they now win easily.”
But as NBC News noted, this is a false argument that doesn't comport with the facts:
Skeptical Republicans also say that a “pathway to citizenship” merely creates legions of new Democratic voters.
But somewhat glossed over in the debate is the question of just how many undocumented immigrants would actually take the steps required to become United States citizens - with the right to vote and run for federal office.
NBC estimated that of the 8 million who would gain legal status under the Senate bill, only about 5.7 million would become permanent residents. After putting the question of citizenship to the Pew Hispanic Center, NBC reported:
Mark Hugo Lopez, the director of research for the Pew Hispanic Center, says the answer may lie somewhere between public polling and the historical record.
According to a poll by the Center in 2012, nine-in-ten Hispanic immigrants who are not citizens (including those in the country illegally) say they want to become citizens.
But, Lopez notes, the reality is far from that, particularly for Hispanic immigrants who struggle with the cost or language requirements.
“Even though many people desire to become a U.S. citizen, barriers such as leaning to speak English and also the financial cost of even applying for citizenship are barriers that many point to for why they have not yet applied for citizenship even though they are in the United States legally,” he said.
The numbers of naturalization are lower for Hispanic immigrants than for others, and particularly low for Mexican immigrants who are eligible to become citizens.
Only 46 percent of Hispanic immigrants who are eligible to become citizens have applied, compared to 71 percent of non-Hispanic immigrants, Pew calculates. Just 36 percent of eligible Mexican immigrants have naturalized.