Only months before a presidential election that may prove to be the most significant in determining their future as Americans, Hispanic voters are faced with a biter choice between two candidates ranging from disinterested to openly hostile concerning the issues important to the nation;s fastest growing minority group.
Statistical landmarks that prove the surge in population growth among Hispanics are being eclipsed regularly. Just last month, government that minority births — mostly Latino — surpassed white babies born in the United States for the first time ever. America is well on its way to becoming a “majority minority” nation, but the fasting growing segment of the population remains marginalized, ignored, and abused.
The spike in Hispanic population growth also translates into a steady stream of new votes, many in states where experts predict national elections for years to come will be decided. This “sleeping giant” of new voters only now becoming involved in civic responsibilities such as voting gives the nation’s Hispanic population an important and unique position of power in American politics.
Conventional wisdom has decreed that Democrats like Barack Obama will be the certain beneficiaries of more Hispanic voters and greater Hispanics participation in democracy. With Republicans and conservative politicians staking claim to a hawkish and offensive stand on immigration and civil rights issues, Democrats and the president are counting on strong Latino support, matching if not exceeding the 2008 election when Hispanics helped send Obama to the White House.
But has the relationship between America’s massive Hispanic population, President Obama and his political party become one where that support is merely taking for granted? Even as the GOP clings to extreme position on immigration and social issues that drive away Hispanic voters, Obama administration policies risk alienating Hispanics who are embracing a growing skepticism towards traditional alliances.
Conservatives are trying to seize on the frayed relationship between the president and Latino voters by launching an ad campaign in Western states that seek to play up the more controversial aspects of President Obama’s policies on immigration and other issues.
A group aligned with Mitt Romney’s campaign is “educating” Hispanics about the “policy of massive and systematic deportations” adopted by the White House in the president’s first term.
Is President Obama “the most anti-immigrant president we’ve ever had?”
That’s the bold claim being made by conservative Latino strategist Alfonso Aguilar, who is spearheading a new effort designed to diminish Latino support for Mr. Obama in the key swing state of Nevada ahead of the November elections. He and his allies have a lot of work to do: A NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll out this week found that Mr. Obama leads presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney 61 to 27 percent among registered Latino voters nationally.
Aguilar argues that Latinos should reconsider their support for the president over his having overseen a record number of deportations of illegal immigrants, which he describes as “a policy of massive and systematic deportations that is much more punitive than the Arizona law.” He argues that Mr. Obama has been “worse than Joe Arpaio” on immigration, claiming that the president’s record is worse than that of the controversial Arizona sheriff and hard-line opponent of illegal immigration who has been sued by the Justice Department over allegations of racial profiling.
The most vulnerable point for President Obama with Hispanic voters is his unquestionably terrible record on immigration and protecting immigrant families.
Winning over Latinos in the 2008 campaign with a promise of combating the rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and inhumane immigration policies, the president never even attempted comprehensive immigration legislation and presided over the implementation of two of the most offensive anti-immigrant laws in the nation’s history, in Alabama and Arizona, though the administration has launched legal battles to scale back those laws.
Obama has faced the most stinging criticism from Hispanic voters and activists over his record on deportations. Despite illegal immigration dropping to its lowest levels in years thanks to the recession, the Obama administration deported more immigrants in 2011 than any year in American history, and has already deported more immigrants than his much-maligned Republican predecessor.
The most bitter and controversial impact on the government’s policy of mass deportations has been a rise in the break up of Hispanic families. As the Hispanic American population has grown, families of immigrants and non-immigrants have blended together, leaving the immigration status of families in limbo and subject to the whims of federal immigration enforcement.
President Obama, despite tweaks in the policy this year, has mostly ignored calls from activists and rights groups to halt deportations that would break up families and especially impact children of undocumented immigrants.
Thousands of immigrants with no criminal records and who have been in the United States for decades have have been caught up in the Obama administration’s emphasis on deportation, seemingly tailored to appeasing conservatives critical of the president. Federal agents have tracked and arrested scores of immigrants they deem undocumented but without any criminal records, splitting up families with children who have known nothing but life in America.
Mass deportation has left excruciating challenges for the children of immigrants who were born in the United States and are U.S. citizens, but who must watch their parents be handcuffed and sent to countries many left decades ago.
The most distressing consequence of the administration’s policy is the huge increase in the number of children in foster homes who lost parents to deportation. Over 5,000 virtual orphans are in foster care in the wake of last year’s spike in deportations when nearly 50,000 immigrants with U.S.-born children were deported.
An unprecedented increase in the deportation of undocumented immigrants has left an estimated 5,100 children languishing in U.S. foster homes — a troubling figure that could triple in the coming years, according to a November report from a New York-based advocacy group.
The ”Shattered Families” report from the Applied Research Center, which the activist group says is the first to analyze national data related to the separation of families involved in deportations, offers a look at the human dimension of the highly contentious immigration debate.
The Obama administration deported 46,000 parents of children who are U.S. citizens in the first six months of 2011, the ARC report says. Government data shows a total of 397,000 expulsions in fiscal year 2011, with half involving people with criminal records.
“This means that almost one in four people deported is the parent of a United States citizen child,” said Seth Freed Wessler, the report’s chief investigator and author. “ARC’s research has uncovered a troubling collateral effect of these deportations: Thousands of children enter the child welfare system and are often stuck there.”
Despite public outrage, the focus on deportations shows no sign of abating in a crucial election year. Immigration officials and the Obama administration have actually announced a massive increase in the number of agents dedicated to deporting immigrants. The sweep is ostensibly focused solely on immigrants with criminal records, but 2011′s deportation policy was similarly advertised and ended up with only 50 percent of those removed confirmed to be criminals.
Obama’s immigration record is staunchly opposed by Hispanic voters, creating a vulnerability for him heading into the final stretch of a brutal reelection campaign.
Nearly 60 percent of Hispanic Americans in a recent poll said they were against Obama’s immigration policy and increase in deportations.
U.S. Hispanics disapprove of President Barack Obama’s stepped up deportation program by a two-to-one margin, although support for the Democrat over top Republican rivals remains strong, according to a new study.
The Obama administration deported a record 396,000 unauthorized immigrants last year, up about 7 percent on 2008, the last year Republican George W. Bush was in office.
More than half those deported were convicted criminals, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The study by the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center released Wednesday found 59 percent of Latinos surveyed disapproved of the way the Obama administration handles deportations.
Beyond immigration, the Latino community is also being squeezed by the ongoing economic stanation that has stalled the recovery from 2008′s recession. The latest jobs report shows Hispanics burdened with an 11 percent unemployment rate, three points higher than the national average as a whole.
But if President Obama has been a disappointment and a failure in terms of fighting for humane immigration reform and protecting immigrant families, there is still no real alternative for Latinos when it comes to the presidential election. Republicans have not even tried to court a Hispanic voting base viewed as virtual criminals by much of the GOP’s conservative base.
The party if Mitt Romney is known more for its persistence in pushing anti-immigrant legislation and opposing even President Obama’s immigrant hunts as too “soft” than any real effort to split Hispanics from the president. The lack of Hispanic outreach threatens the chances of their presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who many say must win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to have a shot at winning the White House.
Romney has done little to help win over Hispanic voters, completely ignoring the issue of immigration reform in his own official remarks — leaving the audience at his sole speech in front of Latinos stunned when he never brought up the number one issue for their community — and embracing surrogates who have an ugly track record of anti-immigrant policies and offensive rhetoric.
When it comes to immigration policy, Mitt Romney has decided that discretion is the better part of valor. In his speech before Latino business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, Romney decided to avoid the whole immigration issue altogether…
Romney, after trashing his primary opponents from the right on immigration, and endorsing an immigration policy of “attrition through enforcement,” attempted an awkward pivot to the center once the primary was over. Romney promised to “study” a plan offered by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children. That didn’t go over well with the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party, most notably Romney adviser Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who helped write many of the nation’s harshest state immigration laws. As theWashington Post’s Greg Sargent reported, Kobach called the Rubio plan “amnesty,” even though it wouldn’t actually grant citizenship to anyone.
“I’d absolutely reject any proposal that would give a path to legal status for illegal aliens en masse,” Kobach said. “That is what amnesty is. I do not expect [Romney] to propose or embrace amnesty.”
Romney spent an awkward few days trying to distance himself from Kobach, demoting him from adviser to “supporter.” Kobach nonchalantly told Think Progress that yes, he was still advising Romney on immigration, regardless of what the campaign itself was saying.
Romney’s most public contribution to the national debate on immigration and Hispanic-centric issues was a now-infamous quip during one of the many Republican primary debates.
The current GOP nominee appeared to promise that he would enforce a policy of “self-deportation” among immigrants if elected president, essentially promising to make life so horrible in the United States for suspected undocumented immigrants that they would leave the country and abandon their children rather than be rounded up by the federal government.
Mitt Romney has a message for undocumented immigrants: Deport thyself.
During Monday night’s GOP presidential debate in Tampa, Fla., Romney was asked how he would address illegal immigration, and said he favored what he called “self-deportation.”
“The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here,” Romney said. “We’re not going to round them up.”
Romney was responding to moderator Adam Smith of The Tampa Bay Times, who asked how the former Massachusetts governor could be in favor of illegal immigrants returning home and applying for citizenship while at the same time saying he does not want the U.S. government to have to hunt down illegal immigrants and deport them.
When pressed for details on his concept, Romney proposed implementing a system in which the government would issue a card that links to online federal immigration data, so employers will know whether a job-seeker is undocumented.
Those without cards would be pushed out of the job market and forced to leave the country, Romney reasoned.
“If people can’t get work here, they’re going to self-deport to a place where they can get work,” Romney said.