There's a lot riding on the immigration reform proposals now before Congress, and not just for immigrants.

That's why the results of a new poll released Thursday are so intriguing. It said nearly 70 percent of Hoosiers support the immigration reform proposal now before Congress. The plan, which includes strengthening borders as well as a path to citizenship, drew strong support from 35 percent of respondents and is somewhat supported by 34 percent. 

Even more interesting is that the poll, conducted by the Republican firm Harper Polling, was heavily weighted with Republicans. Asked to give their party affiliation, 44 percent said Republican, 33 percent said Democrat and 23 percent said independent or other political party.

The GOP support seems to run counter to the results of the May 2012 GOP primary in which incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., was ousted. Turnout was low in that election, so it could be said — heck, I am saying it — that a vocal minority of GOP extremists knocked out a Republican candidate who now seems to have represented the majority Republican view on immigration.

Lugar, you'll recall, was criticized for his prior support of the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for young immigrants whose parents brought them here illegally. That was a bipartisan proposal, with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also supporting it.

The DREAM Act is just one aspect of the larger immigration reform proposal now before the Senate.

The poll results seem to indicate general support among Republicans for a bipartisan immigration reform.

That makes sense, because most Republicans recognize the importance of attracting more minority votes. Whichever party wins Hispanic and Asian votes will control the nation's future.

In 2008, Barack Obama gained 67 percent of the Hispanic vote. In 2012, his support rose to 71 percent.

There's some truth to the idea that Obama needs to fulfill this campaign promise to Hispanics. Although he can't run for president again, he's fighting for his party.

If the Democrats are seen as the victors in this fight, their party will get future Hispanic support.

It's a tougher battle for Republicans. If they can win the respect of Hispanics, they stand a better chance in future general elections.

But they still have to survive primary elections. That's where the Lugar example comes in.

Centrists have a difficult time surviving primary elections with low turnout. So Republicans courting the Hispanic vote might suffer at the hands of extremists.

Republicans in Congress will have to watch their step on this politically dangerous issue. We should see what that means for bipartisan reform by the Fourth of July.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter/LaPorte County Editor

Porter/LaPorte Editor Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.