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U.S. immigration crisis adds to problems that galvanize Republican voters

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, July 17 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. immigration crisis has added to the long list of issues that has fired up Republican voters, and could further galvanize the party's base in the lead up to November's Congressional elections, experts said.

Four months before the mid-term elections, the U.S. President Barack Obama administration has been embroiled in numerous scandals, ranging from deaths at government-run veterans' hospitals due to treatment delays to charges of presidential overreach.

To add to those and many other the Republican Party (GOP)'s concerns, a debate over immigration from the U.S. southern border has erupted amid a surge in the number of unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally. The hot button issue represents a bitter divide between the two parties, as Democrats favor amnesty while Republicans regard the border's lax security as another Obama administration's failure.

The issue now tops the list of Americans' concerns, according to a recent Gallup poll, and especially resonates with older, more conservative voters, who tend to vote Republican.

"The longer this southern border crisis drags on, the worse it is for Democrats' hope of holding control of the Senate in 2014," Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua, referring to the very real possibility that Republicans could end up controlling both houses of Congress and render Obama a lame duck.

Indeed, twice as many Republicans cite immigration as a top concern, according to a recent poll, in an election whereby candidates will rely primarily on their base to get out the vote.

"This is an issue that is firing up the Republican base more than it's firing up the Democratic base," O'Connell said.

While immigration can get both sides hot under the collar, it also tends to die down quickly based on news coverage. With four months to go until the mid terms -- a lengthy period in U.S. politics -- some argue the issue could be forgotten by the time November rolls around.

But Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told Xinhua: "This is one of those issues that is huge even if Washington doesn't want to deal with it, and there is always a possibility it will light up during the elections."

He added there is a possibility that key states will see an uptick in the number of those both for and against immigration as a result of the border crisis and congressional failure to pass reform.

Zelizer said immigration will continue to be an issue because it has a huge impact on millions of Americans on a daily basis.

"Even if it dies down for the midterms it will remain a huge problem for elected officials and will come back sooner or later, likely sooner," he said.

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