IMMIGRATION DEBATE TAKES CENTER STAGE

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

(Credit: AP Photo/Getty Images)

No longer a backburner issue, immigration is roiling the presidential contest as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney seek to court the nation’s swelling Hispanic population. The outcome could influence political battle lines and shape American politics for generations.

 The Supreme Court is about to render judgment on a get-tough Arizona law, and just last week the Democratic president announced plans to ease deportation rules for some children of illegal immigrants. With Election Day less than five months away, Hispanic voters are energized and paying close attention.

photo source: flickr

“There’s a lot at stake. We’re talking about a significant share of the American electorate that could well decide this election,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “It’s only now that both candidates are turning their attention to the Latino vote.”

LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Indeed, both sides are crafting aggressive strategies to appeal to a demographic that is by no means monolithic but has supported Democrats in recent elections. Some Republicans fear — and Democrats hope — that Obama could capitalize on this moment to help solidify Hispanic voters as predominantly Democratic this fall and for years to come, much as President Lyndon Johnson hardened the black vote for Democrats as he pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The stakes are high not only for states with larger Hispanic populations such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, but for a growing number of other battlegrounds — Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, among them — where even a modest shift among Latino voters could be significant. The United States‘ Latino population surged from about 35 million in 2000 to 50 million in 2010, according to the Census Bureau.

Obama is riding a wave of Latino enthusiasm over his decision to allow hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work. Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants can avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military. The new policy could help anywhere from 800,000 young immigrants — the administration’s estimate — to the Pew Hispanic Center‘s estimate of 1.4 million.

The move was politically timely, in the heat of the campaign and with Obama needing to energize a key part of his base of supporters — many of whom had grown disenchanted over the past three years. While the direct beneficiaries of the directive can’t vote for Obama, his action has widespread support among American Latinos. In fact, Obama has long enjoyed support among Hispanics — he won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008.

But he risked losing their enthusiasm, partly because Hispanics have been among the hardest hit by the economic slowdown. Obama also lost some support because he hasn’t fulfilled promises of a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system and because his administration has been aggressively deporting illegal immigrants. A December poll by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 59 percent of Latinos disapproved of the president’s handling of deportations.

Obama supporters 2008 photo source: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod predicts that the president could exceed his 2008 performance with Hispanics this year, noting that his opponent then was Sen. John McCain, who had initially pushed for an overhaul of the immigration system. Axelrod contends that Romney is “hopelessly twisted up on this issue.” Obama had troubles of his own before the administration announced the recent initiative. Supporters of many illegal immigrants — students as well as workers— had been mounting protests at Obama campaign headquarters this month in places such as Denver and Los Angeles.

Marco Saavedra, a Dream Act protester, participates in a sit-in Friday at President Barack Obama’s Walnut Hills campaign headquarters. The office has been closed since Saavedra and other protesters arrived Wednesday. / The Enquirer/Cara Owsley

 The Romney campaign has struggled to offer a consistent response to the president’s move. Romney has assailed Obama’s “broken promises” on immigration in recent days but has focused on the new policy’s temporary status as his prime criticism.

photo: photo: AP / Stephan Savoia

“These people deserve to understand what their status will be long term, not just four and a half months,” Romney said on Fox News Radio this week. “And that’s why I think it’s important for me and for Congress to come together to put together a plan that secures the border, that insists that we have an employment verification system and that deals with the children of those who have come here illegally on a long-term basis, not a stopgap measure.”

photo: photo: AP / Gerald Herbert

As is typical, Romney intends to focus on the economy when he faces the Latino convention on Thursday. The former Massachusetts governor argues that his economic credentials would benefit all people who have struggled under Obama’s leadership in recent years — women, younger voters and Hispanics among them. Still, Romney’s own immigration policy is unclear as he works to distance himself from harsh conservative rhetoric that was common during the extended GOP primary season earlier in the year.

photo source: AP / Paul Sancya

Facing a Rhode Island audience in April, for example, Romney drew large cheers when he said, “We want people to come here legally. And we like it when they come here speaking English.” He did not support the Obama administration’s lawsuit challenging Arizona’s hardline immigration law. And he said that he would veto the DREAM Act that would have given legal status to some children of illegal immigrants. Romney has refused so far to say whether he would reverse Obama’s new policy that does much the same thing, albeit on a temporary basis.

A Spanish language ad from the Obama campaign targeting Latino voters.

Even before he announced the new rules, Obama was looking to build his support among Latinos, vastly outspending Romney on Spanish-language television and radio. But Romney has released targeted TV and radio ads in Spanish, including some that feature one of Romney’s sons who is a fluent Spanish speaker. Simon Rosenberg, who follows immigration matters as head of the liberal-leaning group NDN, said the president’s move on immigration not only helps him energize Latino voters, it also helps cast him as a president willing to take bold steps. For a Latino community that worried that neither party was doing enough, “they now have a champion,” he said. But, he added, “There will be a resonance beyond the Latino community.”

Besides the new immigration initiative, the Obama camp has been using the new health care law to appeal to Hispanic voters, a rare use of the signature Obama measure in the campaign. An ad campaign this week in Nevada, Colorado and Florida focuses on the benefits of the health care law for Hispanics and features Cristina Saralegui, a popular Spanish-language television personality who endorsed Obama this week. She says in the ad that Obama’s health care law guarantees that “the great majority of Hispanics” will have access to doctors and hospitals.

Read More: Christian Science Monitor

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MITT ROMNEY’S SUPPORTERS BLAST OBAMA’S SPEECH TO HISPANICS

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

photo source: Gerardo Mora, Getty Images

 Mitt Romney‘s supporters today blasted President Obama’s speech to Hispanic leaders, charging the Democrat with failing Latinos with his policies. “We won’t be fooled by the shell games and the last minute political gimmickry President Obama is playing to distract from his record,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Obama vowed he would continue fighting for a “comprehensive” immigration bill to come out of Congress and talked about ways to improve the economy in his remarks this afternoon at the NALEO conference. Romney spoke to the Hispanic elected and appointed officials, sounding a less-strident tone on immigration than he did during the GOP primaries. Rep. Quico Canseco, R-Texas, said Hispanics have been set back by Obama’s policies. He cited a double-digit unemployment rate and what he called a “staggering” child poverty rate for Latinos as examples.

photo source: flickr

 “The Hispanic community cannot stand for four more years under the current administration in Washington. By electing Mitt Romney in November, we can instead choose a different path and begin the work of turning the economy around for all Americans, especially Hispanics.”

Read More: USA Today

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DID OBAMA AND ROMNEY BOTH COME OUT AS WINNERS AT THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ELECTED OFFICIALS CONFERENCE?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

A high-profile gathering of Latino public officials turned out to be a win-win for President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, according to interviews with those who attended. Democrats did not take Obama to task for waiting so long to stop deportations of young illegal immigrants, and Republicans expressed relief at Romney’s presence and softer tone.

“I think people are ready to give both of them, really both of them some pass,” said Ron Garcia, a Republican from Southern California and a member of the board of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “There’s some time now to digest what the two candidates have to offer.”

photo source: CBS News

The fast-growing Latino community is a pivotal voting bloc in several battleground states, including Florida, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina and Arizona. Obama won two-thirds of the Latino vote in 2008 and is doing even better than that in some polls this year. Analysts estimate that Romney needs to win as much as 40 percent of the Latino vote to win the White House, a goal he is not reaching in several states and one made harder by the tough immigration rhetoric he and other Republican candidates employed during the primaries.

Watch President Obama’s remarks at NALEO.

Obama’s standing with Latinos was reflected in the enthusiastic cheers and multiple standing ovations he received at NALEO. Better yet for him: the only subject that came close to generating as much fervor as his new policy on undocumented youth was his mention of the Affordable Care Act, a toxic subject in much of the country.

President Barack Obama greets supporters at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference, Friday, June 22, 2012, at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. President Obama was scheduled to address the crowd later in the day. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

“I was very moved by it,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor from Phoenix, Ariz. “I saw a toughness that I had not seen the last time he came to NALEO and I like that a lot, because he has done so much — in terms of not only what he did with the executive decision (on young immigrants) but also with the economy.”

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, holds a baby as he greets attendees at the NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) conference in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

While Obama had a natural advantage at the conference, Romney benefited from offering his own ideas for immigration reform in front of a polite audience. His proposals, aimed in part at keeping families together and highly educated foreign students in the United States, allowed him to move away from his much-scorned “self-deportation” language and reintroduce himself as a general-election nominee sympathetic to the concerns of Latino voters.

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, holds a baby as he greets attendees at the NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) conference in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

“I was a little upset with him over some of the harshness with respect to immigration in the past, but what he said today was something I find appealing,” said Juan Zapata, a self-described moderate Republican who chairs the NALEO Education fund. “Softening that rhetoric with regards to immigration will definitely go a long way towards helping Republicans.”
Watch Romney’s remarks in the video (skip to 4:30).
If Romney’s speech was part of the learning process of how to speak to Hispanic voters, “he’s on the right track,” said Longwood, Fla., city councilman Bob Cortes, who is a Republican.
Key to the satisfaction of several Republicans at the conference was a sense that Romney did not outright reject the ideas behind the DREAM Act, legislation that would create a path to citizenship to people brought to the United States illegally as children, if they pursue a college education or military service.

Activists from the Student Immigrant Movement march in support of the DREAM Act. | AP Photo

However, several Democrats — including Obama — pointed to Romney’s emphatic opposition to the DREAM Act during the primary campaign. Many called Romney’s ideas vague and accused him of deliberately avoiding saying whether he would overturn Obama’s new policy of letting young undocumented immigrants apply for temporary deportation reprieves and work permits (Romney said in his speech he would propose comprehensive reform that would “supersede” Obama’s order).

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, speaks at the NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) conference in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (AP2012)

Many gave Romney credit for appearing at the conference even with the knowledge that the crowd would be largely comprised of Democrats supportive of Obama. “I think he basically showed them that he did care one way or another, he did believe in the Latino vote and that he did believe that immigration is an issue,” said Republican political consultant Esteban Ferreiro. “I think he did what he needed to do within his beliefs.”

Even Democrats like Utah State Senate minority leader Ross Romero said Romney’s intentions seemed sincere, even if his policy proposals were too general. “The fact that he spent 20 minutes, 30 minutes walking the rope line after his speech said to me that he knew he had work to do, he knew that he needed to make those one-on-one connections, and the fact that we were respectful when he was speaking lent for that opportunity,” Romero said.

Read More: CBS News

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FORMER COMMERCE SECRETARY CARLOS GUTIERREZ LEADS THE REPUBLICAN HISPANIC DREAM TEAM: “JUNTOS CON ROMNEY”

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez leads the Hispanic Dream Team “Juntos con Romney” along with former Attorney  General of Puerto Rico José Fuentes and former Administrator of the  Small Business Administration Hector Barreto, Fox News Latino reported.

Despite the current 2-1 hold President Obama has on the Hispanic vote, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney hopes to persuade some of those voters to rally behind him by emphasizing his position on the economy.

Jae C. Hong/AP

While Romney’s earlier position immigration distanced him from many Hispanic voters, the May jobs report, which placed unemployment among Hispanic Americans at 11 percent last month, up from 10.3 percent in April and highest level yet in 2012 the National Journal reported, could make Hispanic voters give Romney another look.

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a campaign stop at Southwest Office Systems, Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Recently, at a Hispanic-owned business in Texas, Romney attacked the “Obama economy,” saying that under the current president, the economy has been “particularly hard on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic Americans.” Romney went on to call the president “anti-small business” and “hostile” to the small businesses environment which has made it harder for businesses to hire more people, the Washington Post reported.

The Romney campaign asserted a similar message on its YouTube Channel and released, “Fine.” The video, which presented President Obama as out-of-touch with the job market, criticized him for his recent assertion that “the economy is doing fine.”
Keeping to that message, the channel also released a video in Spanish entitled “Deprimente” or “Dismal” which shows a supporter of President Obama asserting that the country is on the right path and then contrasts that with the current economic statistics for Hispanic Americans.
Still, despite these efforts, a new Latino Decisions national poll reveals President Obama has a 43-point margin over Romney among Latino voters.
One reason for the vast gap could be that President Obama is currently outspending Romney significantly in Spanish-language media. While the president has already invested $1 million over the last five weeks, to emphasize the president’s health care and education reforms, Romney has spent about $13,000 on Spanish-language media since he became the unofficial official republican nominee, the National Journal reported.

Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez File photo by Leslie Smith Jr., USA TODAY

However, those numbers could change. Romney recently created a committee entitled  “Juntos con Romney,” or “Together with Romney,” led by former  Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, former Attorney  General of Puerto Rico José Fuentes and former Administrator of the  Small Business Administration Hector Barreto, Fox News Latino reported.

 “The Hispanic community has been especially hard-hit by President Obama’s  policies,” said Gutierrez in a press release. “Instead of spurring economic  growth and creating jobs, President Obama has only expanded government and hurt  job creation. We need a leader who will bring back jobs, help small businesses,  and ensure that the American Dream remains for future generations.”

Mitt Romney addressed the Latino Coalition summit at the US Chamber of Commerce… (Mario Tama/Getty Images )

 Romney’s advisors are also trying to get him to soften his earlier rhetoric on immigration, Boston.com reported.  Currently Romney is “studying” a modified version of the Dream Act, proposed by Romney’s potential pick for Vice President Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl) which would grant non-immigrant visas to young people here illegally if they go to college or serve in the military, ABC News reported.

The Dream Act was killed by a narrow margin (55-41) in the Senate when Democrats failed to break a filibuster in the Senate. The Dream Act with a broad bipartison support was to provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as a child upon completing specific requirements. The failure to pass the Dream Act was heart breaking for millions of immigrants who had thought 2010 would have been the year where American would embrace the hard working immigrant communities across the country.

Whether or not Romney’s outreach will make an impact will soon be put to the test. Romney wil speak June 21 before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the day before President Obama addresses the group. The speech could provide a clear contrast between the two candidates on a variety of issues, Boston.com reported, which might sway more voters to say sí se puede or juntos con Romney.

Read More:  FOX News Latino

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IT’S OFFICIAL MITT ROMNEY GETS THE GOP NOMINATION

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

photo source: Getty Images

This is it. Today, Willard Mitt Romney goes where no semi-Mexican Mormon has  gone before. Romney is officially  the Republican nominee for president. Forget presumptive. Forget putative. Forget probable. When Texas  doled out its 155 delegates, that pushed Romney over the 1,144 he needs to  clinch the title, and transform himself from front-runner to official  nominee.

(L.- r.) Jae C. Hong/AP, Carolyn Kaster/AP

The battle between Romney and President  Obama began weeks ago, after it was clear there were no real contenders left to  challenge the former Massachusetts governor. Mitt Romney’s victory in the Texas primary on Tuesday gives him enough delegates to capture the Republican presidential nomination, but he remains some distance from recovering from the damage caused by months of tussling with rivals in his own party.

As Texans cast their ballots, Romney was campaigning in two swing states — Nevada and Colorado — that attest to the consequences of the nomination battle. Both states are home to large populations of Latinos. But Romney’s conservative positioning on immigration during the primaries has helped to spike his unpopularity among Latinos. He attacked rival Rick Perry, for instance, for granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
Romney can afford to lose the Latino vote, but not by the lopsided proportions seen in recent polls. A national survey released last week by NBC, the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo found Obama leading Romney among Latino voters 61% to 27%. Romney has been working to address the issue. Speaking to a Latino audience last week in Washington, he called the failure of schools that educate minority students “the civil rights issue of our time.” Polls have long found education to be a top priority for Latino voters.

Romney’s rightward tilt during the primaries also created problems for him with women. A poll released last week by ABC and the Washington Post showed 51% of female voters support Obama and 44% back Romney. Obama’s reelection campaign has sought to depress Romney’s standing among women by highlighting conservative stands that the former Massachusetts governor took during the primaries, such as his pledge to end public funding of Planned Parenthood and his support for a measure that would let any employer deny birth control coverage to employees based on moral objections.

Steven Senne/AP

After weeks of sparring between Romney and Obama, it’s easy to forget how much pressure Romney faced from his party’s conservative wing during the primaries.

For weeks at a time, Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum each ran ahead of Romney in national polls of Republicans, thanks largely to conservative resistance to Romney, who was perceived as more moderate.
Ultimately, only Santorum, who had a stronger claim than Romney on ideological purity, posed a serious threat, winning 11 contests in states spread across the nation’s heartland. Santorum dropped out of the race last month after losing the Wisconsin primary.
 In the end, it took Romney nearly five months to clinch the nomination with his win in Texas. He needed 58 of the 152 Texas delegates at stake Tuesday to reach the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination, according to the Associated Press. With no opponents actively campaigning, Romney easily hit the mark.

Photographer: Evan Vucci/AP

“I am honored that Americans across the country have given their support to my candidacy and I am humbled to have won enough delegates to become the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee,” Romney said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Our party has come together with the goal of putting the failures of the last three-and-a-half years behind us.”
Over the next several weeks, Romney will pick up more delegates in the six remaining primaries, including California’s on June 5.

Read More: Chicago Tribune

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