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Senate Hopeful Mark Kirk facing Upward Battle for Immigrant Votes



August 20, 2009

Chicago, IL - New voter data shows Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill) is facing a major challenge in his run for President Obama's former Senate seat. Immigrant advocacy groups say Kirk will have to make changes to his stance on immigration reform if he wants a fighting chance at gaining Illinois' growing immigrant vote. The Immigration Policy Center data show the immigrant vote in Illinois has grown dramatically over the last four years. This year alone, Illinois has seen a seven-percent increase in Latino voters and the number of Asian voters in the state has increased to 78,000.

Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refuge Rights, says Kirk, who has a record of voting for anti-immigration legislation, will need to tweak his outlook on immigration reform if he wants a fighting chance at winning the Senate.

"Congressman Kirk needs to reach out to Latino leaders, to Asian leaders to talk about how we can have solutions to our broken immigration system, instead of the kind of harsh, polarizing rhetoric that he's been engaged in up to this point."

Hoyt's group is not ready to count Kirk out, however. He says the Republican could win the seat if he modeled Pres. Bush's willingness to work with leaders in the immigration community.

"President Bush proved that Republicans can appeal to immigrant voters. He was very successful in getting well over 40 percent of the Latino vote."

According to 2008 exit polls, only one in five Latinos and two of five Asians selected Kirk in his race to keep the 10th district senate seat. Considering those figures, the Immigration Policy Center estimates Kirk could see a deficit of more than 300,000 Latino and Asian votes in the 2010 race for the Senate seat. Meanwhile, a new Rasmussen poll finds Rep. Kirk is holding a narrow 41-38 lead against his likely challenger, Democratic Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Aricka Flowers, Public News Service - IL