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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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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WATCH ARTURO VARGAS ON CSPAN DISCUSS VOTER TURNOUT, IMMIGRATION, VOTER OUTREACH AND VOTER ID

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

WATCH THE CLIP:
http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/assets/swf/CSPANPlayer.swf?pid=304987-5

Arturo Vargas talked about NALEO’s (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) voter turnout projections for the Latino electorate in the 2012 election, and he responded to telephone calls and electronic communications. Topics included immigration issues, NALEO’s voter outreach efforts, and voter identification laws.

Arturo Vargas is the Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a national membership organization of Latino policymakers and their supporters governed by a 25-member Board of Directors.  Arturo also serves as Executive Director of the NALEO Educational Fund, an affiliated national nonprofit organization that strengthens American democracy by promoting the full participation of Latinos in civic life.

The NALEO Educational Fund’s programmatic activities include U.S. citizenship outreach and assistance, civic participation and integration, voter engagement, technical assistance to elected and appointed Latino officials, research on Latino demographic and electoral trends, and policy analysis and advocacy on access to the democratic process.

Arturo is a nationally recognized expert in Latino demographic trends, electoral participation, voting rights, the Census, and redistricting.

Arturo holds a masters degree in Education and a bachelor’s degree in History and Spanish from Stanford University

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WILL HISPANICS COME OUT AND VOTE IN 2012?

THE HISPANIC BLOG BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ: VOTER TURNOUT

Number of Hispanic voters projected to increase 26 percent

Hispanic voter turnout in 2008 was 9.7 million, and is expected to reach 12.2 million this year. The interest group said the increased projection is due in part to the estimated 50,000 Latinos who turn 18 each month.

“Latinos continue to reshape the nation’s political map, and the Latino electorate will play a decisive role in Election 2012,” NALEO executive director Arturo Vargas said in a statement.

If the group’s projection holds true, Latinos will account for at least 8.7 percent of the country’s voters in November.

Reead more: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/feb/10/number-hispanic-voters-projected-increase-26-perce/

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