Obama’s immigration decision could hurt Dems in Illinois

SHARE Obama’s immigration decision could hurt Dems in Illinois

WASHINGTON — While Democrats worried about losing control of the Senate urged President Barack Obama to hold off on taking action on immigration until after the November elections, in Illinois, Obama’s decision will just make it more difficult for Democrats in tough battles, especially Gov. Pat Quinn, Rep. Bill Foster and Rep. Brad Schneider.

At issue is the possibility that the Hispanic vote in Illinois — a key component of the Democratic base — will be suppressed as a result of Obama going back on his promise to take executive actions on immigration by the end of the summer.

The campaigns of Quinn, Foster and Schneider now will have to work harder to get the Hispanic support they had been calculating they would receive.

When it comes to turning out the Hispanic vote in November, “This certainly won’t help,” said Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

The group, officially nonpartisan, conducts voter registration and get-out-the vote drives that, for practical matters, benefit Democrats in Illinois far more than Republicans.

Benito said his organization is “angry and feels betrayed” over Obama’s decision to delay action on immigration and it “does not help our efforts to say your vote matters.”

Related:Rep. Gutierrez: Obama ‘playing it safe’ on immigration

This broken promise has immediate local and personal ramifications because Obama’s action was expected to reduce the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants.

At the end of August, I reported that the White House was on track for an end-of-summer decision, with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest affirming Obama was sticking to his self-imposed deadline.

What changed is that Obama — with record low popularity ratings — decided not to risk being the cause of the defeat of endangered Democratic senators in a handful of red states who must be elected is the Senate is to remain in Democratic hands.

Obama, in an interview taped on Saturday for NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the U.S. added a new concern.

“And you know, the truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem,” Obama said. “I want to spend some time, even as we’re getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we’re doing this, why it’s the right thing for the American people, why it’s the right thing for the American economy.”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a national leader in the push for immigration reform — who has been very critical of the number of deportations rising on Obama’s watch — said Obama was playing it too safe.

“Well, first of all it’s clear that playing it safe is what is going on at the White House and among Democratic circles. And playing it safe means walking away from our values and our principles,” Gutierrez said during a Sunday interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Look, they’ve looked at polling in four or five states where there aren’t large Latino constituencies and said that’s the way forward without thinking of the impact that policy might have in Illinois, in California and Colorado,” he said. “And so they’ve walked away.”

Gutierrez offered what for him is a calibrated, restrained reaction to Obama’s decision because he is confident Obama will eventually act on immigration and he doesn’t want to blow the endgame.

Josh Hoyt, the executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans, knows the Illinois political turf. He said “the broken promises of President Obama have become an incredibly effective Latino voter suppression machine. President Obama caved in to the fears of Senate Democrats about losing in Arkansas and North Carolina but they better start worrying about what the effect will be on Gov. Quinn, Cong. Foster and Cong. Schneider.”

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