The New York Times has been anxiously awaiting the day the “sleeping giant” of the Hispanic vote wake up with an electoral roar to slaughter the G.O.P. once and for all. It hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps in 2012 the Republican line on immigration reform will cost Republicans the Hispanic vote and the presidency. After all, “some party officials,” allied with “some Republican strategists,” think it may.
Thursday’s bit of wishful thinking came from reporter Trip Gabriel, “Tough Immigration Talk Heats Up Debate, and Alienates Some Hispanics.”
Today, Republican candidates are competing over who can talk the toughest about illegal immigration -- who will erect the most impenetrable border defense; who will turn off “magnets” like college tuition benefits.
But after such pointed proposals heated up yet another Republican debate, on Tuesday night, some party officials see a yellow light signaling danger in battleground states with large Hispanic populations in November 2012. Will Hispanic voters remember and punish the eventual Republican nominee?
Republican strategists have hoped to win many of these voters back by appealing to their discontent over the economy and to their social conservatism, issues that helped George W. Bush win a historically high 44 percent of Hispanic voters in 2004.
Now, however, that pitch may be thwarted, according to some Republican strategists.
Both Herman Cain, the former business executive, and Representative Michele Bachmann are proposing a 1,200-mile border fence -- electrified, in Mr. Cain’s case, double-walled in Mrs. Bachmann’s.
Even Mr. Romney, who has been more measured in his remarks, may have lost Hispanic support over his criticism of a Texas law that allows some children of illegal immigrants to attend state colleges on in-state tuition.
Gabriel pointed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid holding on to his seat in Nevada over Sharron Angle as a sign that Republicans missed an opportunity, quoting Democratic strategist Andres Ramirez.
“Their rhetoric on illegal immigration was very over the top,” he said. “It will cost them in the future.”
We shall see.
On the same page Thursday appeared reporter Julia Preston, a reporter whose coverage is very sympathetic toward illegal immigrants. She took a surprising fiscal conservative angle in arguing against a border fence in “Some Cheer Border Fence As Others Ponder the Cost.”
Proposals for an imposing border fence have drawn cheers at Republican rallies. Border security appears to be an area where some Republican candidates are ready to set aside their priority on fiscal discipline, since security analysts say very little research is available on how much a border-length fence would cost.
Unlike the Times’s cheerleading coverage for budget-busting Obamacare, the Times was diligent in tallying up every conceivable possible cost of a border-length fence.
In 2009, the Congressional Search Service reported that the Department of Homeland Security had spent roughly up to $21 million per mile to build a primary fence near San Diego. The cost had ballooned as the fence extended into hills and gullies along the line.
The same year, Customs and Border Protection estimated costs of building an additional 3.5 miles of fence near San Diego at $16 million per mile. Even this lower figure would yield a rough projection of $22.4 billion for a single fence across the 1,400 miles remaining today.
These estimates do not include the costs of acquiring land, nor the expense of maintaining a fence that is exposed to constant efforts by illegal crossers to bore through it or under it or to bring it down. In March, Customs and Border Protection estimated it would cost $6.5 billion “to deploy, operate and maintain” the existing border fencing over an expected maximum lifetime of 20 years. The agency reported repairing 4,037 breaches in 2010 alone.