Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Latino Politics > Has Obama sewn up the Latino vote?

Has Obama sewn up the Latino vote?

LatinaLista — Today’s announcement by President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that the deportation of undocumented young people will be deferred for up to two years was an unexpected gift.

Photo credit: AP | "Right to Dream" students and supporters block the street outside the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles to celebrate the Obama administrations decision to stop deporting younger illegal immigrants. (June 15, 2012)

Though there is certain criteria that must be met:

  • Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  • Are not above the age of thirty.

the Pew Hispanic Research Center still estimates that 1.4 million undocumented young people could benefit from the new deportation policy.

As expected, and what the White House hoped for, there was euphoric reaction to the news from the young people the new policy impacts to their supporters and sympathizers. There has also been cynicism from some in the Latino community, who remembered the same kind of wide-spread celebration when it was announced last year that a policy of prosecutorial discretion would be implemented in deportation cases by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, that lead to disappointment with ICE Director John Morton admitting earlier this year to the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security that only 1% of pending deportation cases had been tabled under the new guidelines.

Some in the Latino community fear that the same will happen this time. I doubt it.

There’s too much at stake, namely the Latino vote.

At this stage of the game, no one is naive enough to think there wasn’t political motivation behind this action. Clearly, the Obama campaign was feeling the heat from Latino voters on two distinct fronts — the sit-ins at his state campaign headquarters by DREAMer students demanding that Obama do something to stop the deportations of undocumented youth and the growing indifference among Latino voters about this election.

Knowing the importance we place on our children and families and that the DREAM Act is an issue that the majority of Americans support, Obama and his campaign made a smart strategic move.

In fact, the new policy resembles an alternative plan proposed by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in that it doesn’t grant a path to citizenship for these students nor provides for amnesty.

Of course, it wasn’t long before some GOP members issued critical statements about the new policy and the President and some have even threatened a lawsuit against Obama.

Yet this move by the President, without a doubt, stirred a majority of the Latino electorate into start thinking about the election. If this deferment is enacted — immediately, as the President said in his remarks — and the greater community sees that young people are not being deported and are, in fact, being granted work permits, then it’s a safe bet that a portion of the Latino community will show their appreciation with their votes in November.

However, if what happens with this announcement is the same as what happened with prosecutorial discretion, then there would be a backlash. It’s not to say that Romney would benefit — his inactions in response to today’s announcement solidifies his unwillingness to help undocumented students in the eyes of Latino voters. Rather, some Latino voters may just retreat again into their corners of indifference.

But Obama now clearly has an advantage among Latino voters. It’s up to him to grow that advantage and not think his work is all done.

No coverage of the announcement would be complete without hearing directly from the young people who fought tirelessly for this day. Our friends at Long Island Wins shares reaction from Wendolyne Sabrozo and Joaquin Villalobos, undocumented students living in Nassau County and who qualify for the deportation relief spelled out in the new Obama administration policy. Since they came out as undocumented to the board of trustees at Nassau Community College in February, they’ve been advocating for policies like the DREAM Act,

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