But why would Latinos pass on voting this year? The answer: most are dissatisfied with President Obama’s broken promises on immigration reform.
In 2012, Latinos played a major role in awarding President Obama a second term. They gave him 71% of their vote, relying on Mr. Obama’s promise to enact immigration reform. A few months after the election, and with the support of the White House, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform package. But the House GOP leadership refused to act—finally admitting in June of this year that they had no intention of considering immigration reform legislation.
President Obama responded by promising to use his executive authority to make the immigration system work as best it could—and he said he would act by Labor Day. Yet once the summer heat subsided, and the green leaves faded to beautiful fall colors, Mr. Obama’s promise gave way to a delay in the use of his executive authority until after the midterm elections. Once again, it seemed, party politics trumped unjustified deportations.
Is it any surprise then that Latinos feel used and abused by the politicians in Washington?
For them, immigration isn’t simply a political issue. It’s personal. It’s about loved ones who have been detained and deported without reprieve since Mr. Obama took office in 2009. His decision to delay using his authority to provide temporary relief to millions of undocumented immigrants has, understandably, angered Latinos and led them to seriously question the President’s commitment to issues that affect their community.
Some immigration reform advocates, arguing that Democrats should be held accountable for inaction on immigration, have gone so far as to call for a boycott of the November midterm elections.
But I disagree. The enormous power of the Latino vote should not be wasted on a boycott. To the contrary, Latinos should stand proud at the polls next Tuesday as part of an historic movement of change and progress for our nation.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans can take the Latino vote for granted. Historically they have been a swing constituency and it is only in recent years that Latinos have voted in far greater numbers for Democrats. Ours is a vote to be fought for–and big elections will be won or lost depending on which way we vote.
History has proved the power of the Latino vote in state elections too. One clear example of such power is the 2010 California gubernatorial race. Back then, California Governor Jerry Brown was struggling with Latinos. His campaign seemed indifferent to the concerns of Latino voters until his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, started making gains. In 2010, anti-immigrant legislation was trending across conservative-led states, including Arizona, Georgia and Alabama. Latino advocates showed the negative economic effects of the states’ racial profiling policies and Governor Brown then understood the power of the Latino community. Now, Governor Brown has a record of signing laws that have truly set the national standard for pragmatic, well-reasoned policies regarding immigrants. These include pushing back against detainers, allowing undocumented immigrants the right to practice law and qualify for driver’s licenses and, more recently, codifies the jurisdiction of state courts to issue orders regarding protecting unaccompanied immigrant minors.
Two decades after California voters backed Proposition 187—which was later declared unconstitutional—Governor Brown gets it.
Like they did in California, Latino voters nationwide have an opportunity—indeed a responsibility—to show America that real change happens when citizens vote. What matters more than who they vote for is the fact that they vote and show their power. The Republicans, Democrats and Independents may continue with their political gamesmanship, but Latino voters need to get to the polls and show the politicians that immigration reform is not only the right thing to do, it’s smart politics.
Written by Annaluisa Padilla, immigration attorney and Second Vice President, American Immigration Lawyers Association