Hispanics become largest ethnic group in California

Research suggests that the Hispanic community will become the largest single ethnic grouping in California during March 2014. It is expected that Hispanics will then make up 39% of the population overtaking the 'white' population which accounts for 38.8%.

There is a growing Hispanic population in the US and many US political commentators predict that this will have a significant impact on US immigration policy in the years to come.

California is the US state with the largest population; about 38.3m. Of these, according to the Pew Research Center, just under 15m are ethnically Hispanic. Nearly the same number are white.

California once part of Mexico

California has had a significant Mexican population for many years. California was, after all, once part of Mexico. It was ceded by Mexico to the US at the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican-American War in 1848.

The Hispanic population has increased dramatically in recent years. In 1988, Hispanics accounted for only 26% of the state's population and the white population made up 57%.

The Pew Research Center says that the Hispanic population is the fastest growing segment of the US population. Hispanics now account for 17% of the US electorate. The Pew Center predicts that this will rise to 30% by 2050.

Hispanic vote helped Obama to presidency

Hispanics are already a powerful force in US politics. It is believed by many pollsters that the Hispanic vote was a significant factor behind President Obama's victory in the 2012 presidential election against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Hispanic voters backed Obama by 71% to 27%. 11.2m Hispanic voters voted at the 2012 election. This means that about 8m Hispanic voters supported Mr Obama and only about 3m supported Mr Romney. Mr Obama won the election by fewer than 2m votes.

The reason for Hispanic support for Mr Obama rather than Mr Romney was largely down to the two men's different policies on illegal immigration.

11.5m illegal immigrants

There are an estimated 11.5m people living illegally in the US and, of these, it is believed that 80% are Hispanics (more than half are thought to be from Mexico and most of the rest are from South America). It is believed that most US citizens of Hispanic descent know at least one illegal alien.

Mr Obama and the Democrats promised to introduce an 'amnesty' for illegal immigrants. This would allow them to 'come out of the shadows' and embark on a 'pathway to citizenship'.

They would be required to pay a fine for entering the country illegally, learn English, if necessary, and pay a sum to the government to compensate the US for the tax income they should have paid while working illegally.

'Self-deportation'

Mr Romney and the Republicans, on the other hand, campaigned on a promise to introduce tough policies which would make life so difficult for illegal immigrants that they would choose to leave the country voluntarily. These policies were called 'self-deportation' policies which most commentators have said has been extremely unpopular with Hispanic voters.

Hispanic voters have, historically, been somewhat apolitical but this seems to be changing. Some Republican strategists believe that they must do more to attract Hispanic voters or face a future where it is all but impossible for a Republican to be elected president.

These Republicans, who include Mr Romney's running mate Paul Ryan, believe that Republicans should introduce legislation which would allow some of those who entered the US illegally as children to qualify for US citizenship while withholding citizenship from those who entered the country illegally as adults.

'The browning of America'

But other Republicans believe that any concessions to Hispanic sensibilities on immigration would be an own-goal. On March 8th Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter condemned the broadcaster MSNBC for 'celebrating the browning of America'.

She told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that a vote for amnesty would mean the end of the Republican Party and of the country she loves.

She said 'Amnesty is forever and you got to vote for the Republicans one more time and just make it clear; but if you pass amnesty, that's it, it's over and then we organize the death squads for the people who wrecked America'.

New citizens vote Democrat

Her terminology is extreme but some of her views are shared by many Republicans. They believe that almost every illegal immigrant granted citizenship will vote Democrat and this will hasten the demise of their party.

Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com said 'The Republicans are caught between a rock and a hard place. They can embrace immigration reform or they can oppose it. Sooner or later though, it seems likely that immigration reform will happen.'

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