Gutierrez: Obama’s immigration delay cost Pat Quinn votes

SHARE Gutierrez: Obama’s immigration delay cost Pat Quinn votes

President Barack Obama’s decision to delay an executive order on immigration until after the November election “ended up hurting” Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election efforts, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez told Early & Often.

Gutierrez made the comments the same week that Obama traveled to Chicago to celebrate that order, which shields some 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The Obama administration had calculated that it was safe to make the move after midterm elections rather than before.

“I think it was a mistake,” Gutierrez told the Sun-Times’ political portal. “I think it ended up hurting Quinn. I think it ended up hurting Udall in Colorado. I think it ended up hurting Crist in Florida.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall was ousted by Republican Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist lost his bid to defeat GOP Gov. Rick Scott in Florida.

Gutierrez, a Northwest Side Democrat and national voice on immigration reform, has criticized Obama’s decision to put off movement on the issue. In September, Obama announced his decision to address immigration after the November elections. Gutierrez slammed the move, saying the White House was compromising its principles to play it safe in states that threatened to go red.

They went red anyway.

“I think it’s something that discourages people from voting,” Gutierrez said. “I think it would have made a difference.” 

Had it happened in September: “I could have gone all across the state of Illinois … signing people up,” he said.

Gutierrez said the issue would have shown Hispanics and other ethnic groups that Democrats were their party. Democrats could have said: “’We’re taking action because they refuse to take action.’ They would have seen that. I think that would have been a catalyst for people to say – ‘I need to go out to vote,’” Gutierrez said. “I think it would have made a difference in Illinois.”

Turnout was down in key urban areas across the nation, including in Chicago.

Still, it’s impossible to know whether an earlier executive order would have motivated voters and, if so, in what ways.  

“Latinos make up one-third of the city but 15 percent of the vote,” said one Democratic operative who asked not to be named. The operative doubted that the order would have been enough to make up the more than 150,000 vote difference between Republican Bruce Rauner and Democrat Quinn. Recent polls, including an NBC/WSJ survey show the American public is divided on how Obama handled the issue, so he could have faced a backlash among some demographics. However, one poll showed that 87 percent of Latinos supported Obama’s decision, which could have bolstered turnout.

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