Discontent presently fills the air in Latino political circles, much of it aimed at President Obama.
Latino community feelings run deep on the subject of immigration reform. Little is more painful to the Latino voter coalition than the vision of beloved, upstanding children, educated in American schools, being deported to countries they barely know because years ago, their parents brought them to the U.S. for a better, poverty-free life.
California pastor Ryan J. Bell reflected prevailing political bitterness over the DREAM Act defeat, at Huffington Post in Still No Room in the Inn:
"It is more than a little ironic that Jesus, within days of his birth, found himself immigrating to Egypt with his family to escape the tyranny of King Herod the Great who ordered the execution of all male children in Judea. Had he grown up in similar circumstances in our country, Jesus would have been the perfect candidate for the DREAM Act...
"Many of the children who come to this country without proper documentation, come... for the same reasons Jesus fled to Egypt -- to escape poverty or physical danger (or both) and to seek better opportunities for themselves and their children...
"... as at least some of the 41 Senators who voted against the DREAM Act sing songs celebrating the birth of Jesus and shower one another with gifts they might bear in mind that Jesus lived and died for precisely the people who would most benefit from legislation like the DREAM Act. In fact, Jesus was one of those immigrant kids himself."
Latino voter dissatisfaction is increasingly turning toward both parties, and President Obama, where Democrats are not actively supportive of immigration reform:
- In hometown Chicago, President Obama was openly, angrily criticized by discouraged Latino aldermen for lack of progress on immigration issues.
- In Denver, former Mayor Federico Peņa noted that "political frustration is high among many Latinos in the U.S."
- In Nevada 2010 elections, Latinos were urged to not vote as means to "punish Democrats for failing to enact immigration reform within the first years of Barack Obama's presidency."
- In New York, Gabriela Villareal, policy coordinator for the city's Immigration Coalition's 200 member organizations, in The American Prospect, "There is major frustration with the failure of the president and both parties in Congress to move anything forward that would provide humane relief."
Latinos are the "fastest-growing group of swing voters in the country -- are a key constituency both for Democrats and the Obama administration." Per the Pew Hispanic Center poll, "Latinos make up roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population and 9 percent of eligible voters."
Bucking the national trend in 2010, California elected an entirely Democratic slate to fill all eight statewide elected offices. Democrats won thanks to Latinos voters who supported Democrat Jerry Brown over Republican Meg Whitman, drawing "somewhere between 64% and 80%, depending on which poll you believe." Latinos voters comprised 22% of the Golden State electorate.
Likewise, Latino voters sealed Obama's 2008 presidential victory by turning Republican-red states Democratic-blue in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
In 2012, Latino voters will be crucial to reelecting President Obama. Plain and simple, Obama will not have a second term in office without enthusiastic Latino voter turnout at the 2012 polls.
After the DREAM Act was killed, President Obama lamented the defeat as "an incredibly disappointing vote... It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail today... Moving forward, my administration will continue to do everything we can to fix our nation's broken immigration system so that we can provide lasting and dedicated resources for our border security ..."
To an increasing share of Latino voters, President Obama's tepid words likely sounded like so much "blah blah blah." All pretty words, no heartfelt action, no genuine commitment.
Take my word for it as a California Democrat who has watched and admired the smart, growing political power of the Latino community: President Obama must do more than talk the cheap, easy talk to continue to draw Latino voter support.
Obama must be seen as walking the hard walk of humanitarian immigration reform, not solely border security, to be relected in 2012.