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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

Obama Still Has a Long Way to Go to Win Hispanic Vote

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President Obama is going to get a very high percentage of the Hispanic vote. It might even be higher than 2008. That's because Republicans have done everything possible to scare off Hispanic voters as candidates have played to the xenophobic wing of the GOP. Rick Perry is probably the only candidate with credibility on immigration - which Hispanics voters consistently rate as one of the most important issues they consider (despite wishful thinking on the part of many in the GOP who think you can demonize brown people and they'll still vote for you just because the economy is weak).

But for President Obama, the more important issue is whether Hispanics will turn out to vote. Because he's also damaged his credibility greatly by pursuing one of the toughest immigration enforcement regimes in history. The point of the crackdown has been to soften opposition to a comprehensive immigration reform plan. But that assumed that opposition to a legalization program was based on a perceived lack of control over our borders.

Unfortunately, for many the enforcement argument has been a fig leaf hiding the real reason for opposing a legalization program - outright racism. It is no coincidence that most of the states passing tough anti-immigration laws are the same ones who had the harshest segregation rules in the country. These are the same states that are also pushing for "voter integrity" laws that seek to impose identification requirements that are tough for poor - usually black - citizens to meet.

Just as the voter ID backers will deny that their real motive is to suppress black voter turnout in elections, opponents of immigration reform will usually swear they love immigrants, but just want to make sure our laws are respected. Many have promised to consider legalization plans as soon as we can demonstrate that we've got a handle on securing the border. As Secretary Janet Napolitano noted recently:

"There is a mantra in Washington, D.C., that we cannot even talk about immigration reform until we 'secure' the borders," she said, referring to remarks last week by Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who said the administration was "holding hostage" more enforcement policies until they are combined with comprehensive immigration reform.

"It doesn't matter in some people's minds that we've had all these record seizures, or that we're putting even more manpower, technology and infrastructure at our borders. They keep moving the goal posts, and the word 'secure' effectively becomes 'seal' the borders."

The former Arizona governor said that anyone who knows the borders knows that sealing them entirely is "not a reasonably attainable goal."

The President seems to get it now that an enforcement first approach was the wrong way to go. His recent push for the DREAM Act and his introduction of a discretionary relief program for some in deportation proceedings are evidence of that. But a lot of Hispanics are disillusioned by the President and pro-immigration advocates still believe the President is failing to use many of the executive tools at his disposal to help out of status immigrants while continuing to pursue a relentless enforcement campaign.

Hispanic voters are credited with helping put the President over the top in 2008 in states like New Mexico, Nevada and Florida. And in 2010, they probably saved the seat of Senator Harry Reid as well as others. But if Hispanic voters stay home in large numbers, it could be just as much of a blow to the President's reelection chances as a shift in Hispanic voter loyalty to the Republicans.

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  1. Another Voice's Avatar
    I think is going to be hard for this president to change the perception of Latino voters at this stage of the game. Throughout his presidency he has failed to come true in his campaign promise to do Immigration reform when he had the majorities within the first 100 days of his administration, all out enforcement as your posting points out and flat out just playing politics with the issue. Latinos will not vote republican but after all what is really their choice re-elect Obama and sign up for more record deportations of family members, friends and love ones or choose the electric fence crowd. Perhaps the stronger message Latinos could send politicians in DC is stay home and hand a convening defeat to a sitting president that failed them....for Latinos to do worst than they have done with Obama is hard to envision. He has said it himself he will not act within his executive authority and he does not have a partner, so what does he offer to Latinos????? More of the same.....
  2. Another Voice's Avatar
    The Dems playing politics again just like they are doing with their Jobs Act, even though they know they do not have the votes to pass anything...

    Democrats consider new immigration reform push
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