HispanicLatinos are living through a nationally decisive moment. The pressure is building on HispanicLatino leaders – elected, appointed, self-proclaimed and otherwise – to step up to a point in history as important as any since the mid-1960’s. In but a few months, the Supreme Court could waylay the progress HispanicLatinos have made over five decades to achieve social, economic a political parity with mainstream society – and in the process the Court could jeopardize America’s very future.
So I was sitting with a HispanicLatino executive in the movie business in Los Angeles recently. The views expressed on the Obama Administration’s handling of immigration did not surprise me. The ferocity of the comments did. They were not part of the usual script. The conversation in Hollywood confirmed what I have been thinking for many months: That unlike other national elections in which immigration is important then tends to fall by the wayside, this one is shaping up differently.
From a number of perspectives, the power of the issue is real – real enough to tip what looks like a close election in the making. It is certainly real for a significant number of HispanicLatinos. How many? In a close election, 500 votes can be significant. Had only 1,000 more HispanicLatinos voted in Florida in 2000.
Angered by the Obama Administration’s failure to achieve immigration reform (read that some sort of legalization program) and by the number of deportations that by November of next year will number by far more than a million, many HispanicLatinos are ready to hold back on President Obama’s re-election. How many? As I said…
The predicament the Administration finds itself in is delicate, and any attempt to triangulate the issue Clinton-style is nearly impossible. No amount of pitting sides against each other while appearing to be the good guy is going to reduce the intensity of a substantial number of HispanicLatinos on the issue. How many? As I said…
A growing number of HispanicLatinos dogging Obama on immigration know that attacks on immigrants – whether legal or not – are attacks on them. As silent as the HispanicLatino population often appears, most are quite aware of the intimidation and harassment – and intentions – of racist bullies in Alabama and Arizona and elsewhere. Many HispanicLatinos would think that perhaps a black President and African Americans on his staff would understand.
Usually immigration has lost its currency as an issue by the time of the national election. But this time, a credible part of the HispanicLatino community is intent on keeping it alive in the closing stages of the general election that could force it to gain traction among non-HispanicLatinos. This is a worst-case scenario for Obama. Thus another attempt is being made – at least for show – by congressional Democrats to achieve “immigration reform” whose failure they hope to pin, deservedly, on Republican members. But all is not as it appears.
GOP strategists know full well that the demise of any reform legislation will only fuel the issue among HispanicLatinos. Losing on immigration for them might well mean winning in November – not in the classic sense of HispanicLatinos not voting for them but through enough HispanicLatinos not voting at all, while keeping the issue alive among anti-immigrant voters.
It seems the die is cast on immigration: Any semblance of “immigration reform” in Congress would enflame the issue from the start. On the other hand, the ongoing deportation of individuals and rising anti-HispanicLatino rhetoric have created a sensation within parts of the HispanicLatino community that portend more conflict with the administration than it realizes going into November.
Immigration and the election appear headed to the final act as thriller and nightmare – for a million and more reasons.
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