The Latino Vote: Checkmate President Obama
“About damn time!” is what @Evelyn posted on The Wise Latina Club’s Facebook page after the breaking news that the Obama Administration will not just stop deporting DREAMers but that they will be given work permits. About 800,000 illegal immigrants over the age of 16 who have been in the U.S. at least five years and are college or military bound will be impacted.
This comes right after Mari Carmen Aponte, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador was confirmed by the Senate after Republicans led by Florida junior Senator Marco Rubio blocked the vote last year on grounds they had concerns with the Obama Administration’s policies in the region and an ex-boyfriend of Aponte was accused of being a Cuban agent.
Although an “in the Beltway weeds” DC story, the President outmaneuvered the GOP, not just gaining confirmation but more crucially, making an aggressive play for Puerto Rican votes. Aponte is respected, even revered among many Puerto Ricans, especially in the Sunshine state which has more than 400,000 Boricua voters. Florida has 29 precious electoral votes.
Checkmate President Obama, who is aggressively holding and trying to reinvigorate the Latino vote which has been suffering of desencanto–disillusion when Mr. Obama did not deliver the promised immigration reform while deportations accelerated on his watch. This fueled anger and action coming to a head last summer with the Latino community splitting over its continuing support of the President and challenging him to use his executive authority to hit the pause button on removals.
Is the GOP’s head spinning? This is the same party that had to take down stock photos of Asian children to represent Latinos on a website devoted to Hispanics. This is the same party that has blocked Marco Rubio’s “DREAM Act lite.” This is the same party whose 2012 Presidential nominee is towing a hard line, letting the Kris Kobachs representing the fringe win over the Jeb Bushes of the party who urge a common sense solution to modernizing our nation’s immigration laws that are still stuck in the 19th century while strengthening security and our economy.
President Obama (who himself was quiet when not blaming Congressional Republicans for obstruction) has thundered with these moves into his opponent’s recent silence on an issue that in surveys is consistently outranked by jobs, the economy, education, and healthcare but that holds great emotional significance for an emerging community and voting bloc. A Fox News Latino poll from March reveals 90% of likely Hispanic voters support the DREAM Act.
Is this political cynicism on behalf of a President who has seen any lead put in play by his recent stumbling message on the economy?
Yes. But as @Melyssa posted on Facebook, “A little late, but perhaps better late than never” for a community that helped him win in 2008 and can do the same in November.
Now the real question is if Latino voters will show up to the polls. Will these moves be enough to light a match under the tush of Latino voters who have not registered to vote at pace with the demographic growth of the community despite unprecedented efforts by advocacy organizations such as Voto Latino, Ya es Hora ¡Ve y Vota!, and the National Council of La Raza?
Of course, there is also ample time before the general election for the Administration to bungle this as it has with the staying of deportations of non-violent immigrants, a program that is stuck in a bureaucratic backlog resulting in only 2% of the 411,000 under review since the Fall closed.
What will be the Romney campaign’s next play? Better yet, how will Latino voters continue to flex their political muscles by registering to vote, being informed on the issues, and holding those in power accountable so they are making the moves and are not relegated to being political pawns in Election 2012?
This post appears in Fox News Latino where I am a regular politics columnist as Opinion: Obama Scores Big with Immigration Policy.
Click here to read my other Fox News Latino politics columns.