The politics of immigration reform has undercurrents that aren’t necessarily showing up in the polls.
The Washington Post reported Monday that even in Latino communities,people are more concerned about the economy or cost of living than about immigration reform. A new Politico poll shows more voters trust the GOP on immigration than the Democrats.
But what isn’t getting headlines is that in Chicago Latino communities, many people are said to be feeling frustrated and betrayed by President Barack Obama’s decision to postpone executive action on immigration reform. In early summer, Obama said in a Rose Garden speech that he would take executive action because legislation was stalled in Congress, but earlier this month he changed his mind, at least for now.
Obama chalked up the change to the large number of unaccompaniedLatin American children who arrived this summer at the U.S. border, which he said changed the contours of the debate. But the switch in policy was widely seen as a political effort to help U.S. Senate candidates running in tight races in November.
“There is this issue of feeling humiliated,” Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said in a recent meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. “The lack of political courage and heartlessness by the president, we believe, will have an impact on Latino and immigrant voters coming out to the polls. “
Maria Pesquiera, CEO, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, said the delay means an estimated 68,000 people will be deported by the time the election rolls around on Nov. 4, which she said has left many Latinos feeling disillusioned.
“What we are trying to do is remind people to go out and vote, but vote keeping in mind who has had your back, who has really had your interest in mind,” Pesquiera said.
About 8 percent of Chicago families are “mixed status,” she said, which means deportions can affect far more people than just those who are deported.
“What does that mean for children?” she asked. “Children who are U.S. citizens, children who will be left without a parent, or two parentsin certain situations.”
Ere Rendon, an organizer at The Resurrection Project, said low voter turnout in Latino communities is a problem, but turning that around”only gets more difficult when our community feels like they can not rely on either party.”
But Latinos and other imigrants don’t want Democrats to take their votes for granted, Benito said.
“We are not going to be fooled again, and elected officials have their work cut out for them in proving to the immigrant community that they deserve their vote,” he said.