In some ways, the upswing in youth political engagement that corresponded with the 2008 election resembled something of a movement more than it was electoral politics as usual. The enthusiasm and interest that the campaign generated among young people recalled the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s that were oriented around civil rights and the antiwar movement and were led primarily by young people in the days when 18-year-olds were unable to participate in electoral politics.

SOURCE: Flickr / OFA : Latino voters represented 8 percent of voters in the 2010 midterm elections, a number that remained the same as the 2008 presidential elections. Above, Latinos for Obama volunteers campaign in Nevada during the 2008 general election.

Already, many in the Latino community are predicting a downturn in Latino youth participation in the 2012 campaign. Considering that a good number of Latino youth who worked tirelessly for Obama’s election were undocumented, and they were the ones who walked neighborhoods, handed out campaign flyers, urged their neighbors to vote and made phone calls on his behalf, it doesn’t seem likely that these same youth will turn out like they did before given the Obama administration’s record on deportations.

Obama’s first three years have been marked by a record number of deportations of illegal immigrants — nearly 1.2 million, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Deportations totaled 1.6 million during the entire eight years of George W. Bush‘s presidency. Obama received 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008 when he defeated Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Latino voters also helped provide the winning margin in the swing states of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, which could again be important in another close election. Although Texas has voted solidly Republican in recent presidential contests, Obama has enjoyed financial and political support from San Antonio, the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Houston, where the Latino population is increasing.

SOURCE: AP/David Zalubowski: Twin sisters Judith, left, and Maira Garcia make telephone calls to voters from the headquarters of Mi Familia Vota in southwest Denver on Friday, November 3, 2006, encouraging voters to head to the polls to vote in Colorado’s general election that year.

To advance Obama’s standing with Latinos, the White House has organized policy “summits” for administration officials and Hispanic leaders in key states and communities to discuss initiatives on education, job training and health care. The meetings will be held in Texas, Arizona, Florida and Ohio, the White House said. One is scheduled March 9 at Café College in San Antonio, an inner-city resource center designed to help minority students pursue higher education. Mayor Julián Castro, who will participate in the summit, praised the president for addressing concerns that Republican hopefuls have not.

“It’s clear that the Hispanic community has grown tremendously both in population and voters,” Castro said during an interview arranged by the White House before the president’s State of the Union speech. “It benefits the entire nation, particularly the Hispanic community, for issues important to Hispanics to be addressed,” Castro said.

In fairness, the Obama administration has implemented several changes to immigration enforcement policies and procedures with mixed results of success, as seen through the eyes of the Latino community. To say there continues to be disillusionment among Latino youth would be an understatement. Yet, it doesn’t mean that they want to see any of the current GOP candidates win either. What it does mean is that these same youth who were so enthusiastic about the “hope for change” in 2008 don’t see that happening in 2012. Unless something significant comes out of the White House that benefits Latino undocumented youth before November, that delivers on that hope that was promised four years ago, it looks like the Obama campaign will be on its own.


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  1. So tired of anti-catholic politicians like Obama and Hillary Clinton. Latino/Hispanic Americans need to wake up to the reality that voting for Obama is like voting against the Catholic faith. It’s like voting against everything you as a Latino Catholic believe in. Votar por Obama es como votar por el diablo. Too many Latinos are thinking just about immigration issues instead of FAITH issues. Catholics can’t vote for a president that promotes abnormal and sinful gay behavior, killing unborn babies and allowing teens to get abortions without the parent’s knowledge.

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