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Immigration activists climb the District of Columbia and United States flagpoles to fly banners with writing against deportations in Freedom Plaza during a protest on Aug. 2 in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of people marched from the National Mall to Freedom Plaza and to the White House, showing their support against deportations. / Lexey Swall, Getty Images

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story misstated the year Hispanic turnout for a midterm election fell to 31%. It was 2010.

As Republicans in the House slowly killed every immigration bill going through Congress, immigration advocates went to greater lengths to express their anger.

They sat in the street outside the Capitol and got themselves arrested. They handcuffed themselves to the gates of the White House. They confronted Republicans in restaurants and outside their homes. They went on hunger strikes.

Last Saturday, after Congress headed home for a month-long recess without passing a bill to deal with the crisis of Central American children caught crossing the border, a couple of demonstrators even climbed up flagpoles in Washington, D.C., to unfurl banners calling for an end to deportations.

But all that anger and disappointment will probably fail to materialize this fall in the setting where it matters most: the election booth.

There are two reasons for that. The first is simple electoral geography. No matter how energized immigration advocates get, Hispanics just don't make up a big enough segment of the voting blocs in the vast majority of congressional races to make a difference.

Democrats and Republicans are in an all-out battle for control of the Senate, and The Cook Political Report lists 12 Senate races as toss-ups or close to it. Yet of those 12 states, Hispanics make up more than 4% of the electorate in only one: Colorado.

Hispanic clout is just as weak when it comes to the House. Latino Decisions, a polling firm that focuses on Hispanics, identified just 24 Republican-held House districts where Hispanics could play a pivotal role in the outcome. And even there, the firm found that the incumbents "are unlikely to be hurt by their (immigration) votes in November."

The second reason is that Hispanics have never shown up in force on Election Day.

Immigration groups such as the National Council of La Raza have long held voter mobilization drives in key states to get more Hispanics signed up. Every election cycle, I talk to operatives from both parties as they try to register more Hispanics to vote.

From churches in Florida to marches in North Carolina, from volunteer centers in Virginia to campaign events in Colorado, I've seen Democrats and Republicans with clipboards in tow trying to get more Hispanics onto the voter rolls.

But try as they will, their efforts haven't worked. Data going back 20 years show that Hispanics have always trailed whites and blacks on Election Day. According to the Pew Research Center, Hispanic turnout during midterm elections has actually dropped from 38% in 1986 to 31% in 2010.

Republicans can blame the party's difficulty with immigration legislation for their struggles with Hispanic voters. From the brutal 2012 GOP presidential primary, when candidates tried to prove just how tough they can be on immigrants, to the current immigration battle, in which Republicans have refused any attempt to grant legal status to the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants, it's no surprise that the party has struggled to attract Hispanic voters.

But Democrats haven't done much to take advantage of that. Whenever I'm reporting on this issue, I repeatedly hear how Democrats take the Hispanic vote for granted and do little to reach out to them or encourage them to sign up to vote.

"There's no effort at all on mobilizing Latino votes from the party," said Gary Segura, co-founder of LatinoDecisions. "Part of it is the 'taken for granted' thing. The other is the conventional wisdom of 'Latinos don't vote, therefore we won't call them.'"

Segura, like others, says Hispanics will play a much bigger role in the 2016 presidential election. Mitt Romney learned a hard lesson on immigration when he garnered only 27% of the Hispanic vote in 2012, and the next Republican candidate will have to improve on that to win back the White House.

But this year, no matter how riled up immigration advocates get, it's clear that congressional Republicans will face little backlash in the ballot box.

Gomez, based in Miami, covers immigration issues for USA TODAY



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Voices: GOP won't face immigration backlash in November

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