By FERNANDO QUINTERO
The national debate on immigration — and the passage of tough new illegal-immigration laws in Colorado — have some Hispanic voters feeling betrayed by both political parties, but particularly the Democratic Party, which they say has traditionally been on their side.
A national survey released Thursday shows that Hispanics are less satisfied with both political parties than they were two years ago.
More than half of the 2,000 Hispanic adults surveyed by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center said they hold the Republican Party responsible for what they perceive to be negative consequences of the national immigration debate.
More than half of respondents also said discrimination against Hispanics has worsened in the wake of this year’s debate.
But Democrats aren’t off the hook. The share of Hispanics picking the Democrats as the preferred party on immigration issues declined from the center’s last survey in 2004.
In addition, the Democratic Party saw no significant gains in Hispanic voters.
The survey did not break down results by state, but Hispanics in Colorado echoed the survey’s findings.
Veronica Montoya, of Denver, is a ninth-generation Coloradan and a longtime Democrat, the party of her parents and grandparents.
There was never a question about her political affiliation _ until now.
"I always thought the Democratic Party was the party of Latinos. I thought Democrats were for the people, the common person. I blindly voted Democrat because I thought the Republican Party was for rich people trying to protect their money," said Montoya, 37. "Now, the line between the Democrats and Republicans has gotten blurred."
She won’t switch to the GOP, she said, but she’s considering registering as an unaffiliated voter.
So what will the political fallout be come November?
Anna Sampaio, a political scientist at the University of Colorado at Denver, said the potential backlash would likely be felt less in Colorado than in other states that have passed immigration legislation.
That’s because Hispanics make up only 8 percent to 9 percent of the state’s voters, she said, and about 65 percent of them traditionally vote Democratic.
"Alienating those voters might have been a gamble both Republicans and Democrats were willing to take," she said.
But Gary Segura, a political scientist at the University of Washington, said what happened in California following an attempt in 1994 to deny social services to illegal immigrants may serve as a cautionary tale for Colorado.
"After Proposition 187, California became the most reliably Democratic state in the nation because of the fallout among Hispanic voters and others," he said.
"Support (for Democrats) may not be declining in Colorado, in part because of the large number of native-born Hispanics who often favor more restrictive immigration policies," he added.
"But that may change."
The survey at a glance:
The Washington-based nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center surveyed nationally a sample of 2,000 Hispanic adults. The survey was conducted June 5-July 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
- 54 percent say they see an increase in discrimination as a result of the immigration policy debate.
- 63 percent think pro-immigration marches this year signal the start of a social movement.
- 58 percent believe Hispanics are working together to achieve common goals.
- 75 percent say the debate will prompt more Hispanics to vote.
- 25 percent believe neither Republicans nor Democrats have the best position on immigration.
(Contact Fernando Quintero of the Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com.)