Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, hitched his re-election campaign to Proposition 187, which denied public services for illegal immigrants. That included banning children from public schools.

And even though Proposition 187 was thrown out by the courts, “the bill is coming due,” says Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. “This has mobilized vast numbers of Latino voters. Now they’re really pouring to the polls.”

The growing Latino vote definitely got the attention of Republicans on the national stage. Last Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said the GOP must change its tune on immigration reform or risk further losses in the nation’s fastest-growing voter group.

“We have nobody to blame but ourselves when it comes to losing Hispanics,” he said, “and we can get them back with some effort on our part.”…

“Some Republicans are now re-registering as independents to run for office — simply not to have the word ‘Republican’ next to their name,” he says.