ispanics want to make sure that, this time around, Obama sticks to his promise to tackle immigration. In his second term, the president must go after a broad immigration overhaul with the same zeal he showed on health care reform — or risk alienating a broad swath of the nation's fastest-growing demographic.
He's ready. He told the Des Moines Register before the election that immigration reform was his top priority once budget and tax issues are resolved. He won 71 percent of the Latino vote. Obama voters overwhelmingly said they want a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants — 79 percent, according to exit polls. Half of Republican voters also said they wanted legalization. It's as close to a "mandate" as Obama is going to get.
The biggest policy question will be how to legalize 11 million undocumented people in a way that won't be seen as unfair to those who are waiting to become citizens legally. The biggest political question is how Republicans will handle the issue. GOP voters slammed Republican lawmakers for negotiating a legalization plan five years ago. Some lost their seats. In the wake of Romney's loss, GOP operatives are emphasizing the party's need to broaden its appeal to minorities, particularly Hispanics. But the calculus for congressional Republicans is somewhat different. Incumbents have to worry about whether a move to the center could leave them vulnerable to a primary challenge from the right. They will be looking only as far as 2014, not 2016.