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In 1994, California's reliably Republican voters overwhelmingly approved the referendum for Proposition 187, which established a state-run citizenship screening program designed to counter the state's rising population of illegal immigrants and to restrict them from social services. The law's sweeping enforcement provisions drew a national backlash and a challenge in federal court, which knocked down the law as unconstitutional. It also sent the state's socially conservative Latino voters running from the GOP to the Democratic Party, which had been galvanized in California by the law. Since then, California has become one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country, a shift which pollsters attribute in part to the 1994 immigration law.

Is Texas about to follow the same path? NBC News' Domenico Montanaro explores how the Republicans' hard line on immigration policy could amplify the slow leftward trend of U.S. Latino voters. Montanaro warns that Texas, reliably Republican but itself edging to the left, could undergo a party shift like California's if these trends continue.


Smart GOP strategists know this is a problem; the consensus is that Republicans need to capture AT LEAST 35-40% of the [Latino] vote to win national contests. Yet looking at Republican primaries across the country, GOP candidates aren't looking at the long-term. ...

[1991-1999 Republican California Governor] Pete Wilson is an important lesson here, says co-pollster Peter Hart (D): In presidential races from 1952 to 1988, Dems won California just once. After Wilson's Prop. 187, Republicans haven't come close to winning the nation's biggest state. The next California could be Texas, and the GOP can't afford to have that big state become competitive.

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