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Six Reasons Why Latinos May Stay Home on Election Day

The Latino community's disgust for Obama has turned into contempt for the man and his policies.

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

April 29, 2011 - 12:00 am

There’s more news on the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Mr. Obama and Latinos. A constituency that, just two years ago, handed over 67 percent of their vote to Obama is now protesting in the street, as occurred during President Obama’s recent trip to Los Angeles.

But to understand just how bad things have gotten, and to put it in context, you have to know six things:

1)    The criticism that Obama caught from Latinos in the first 18 months of his administration for breaking his promise to make immigration reform a top priority is a love tap compared to what has rained down upon him more recently for his atrocious behavior with regard to deporting illegal immigrants. That includes using the 287g program to allow local law enforcement to round up, and give to the feds, as many illegal immigrants as possible with the surgical precision of a meat cleaver;

2)    One thing that has really irked many Latinos is the fact that the administration is so cavalier about its record number of deportations — nearly 800,000 in its first two years — that it sends Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano out to brag about the take like a proud fisherman posing for a picture with the daily catch;

3)    The reason for that is because Latinos — whether naturalized citizens, or eighth-generation residents of the Southwest — take deportations seriously. More to the point, they take them personally. Most of them won’t bat an eye if you remove a 20-something single man with no family. But when you start uprooting and deporting grandma, grandpa, mom and dad — people in which other people’s lives are wrapped up — look out;

4)    There is always a group of Latino voters out there who are just waiting for Democrats to betray them, as if to confirm their cynical belief – from the old countries — that all politics is corrupt and all politicians beyond redemption. And so when a Democratic elected official betrays them, they’ll pounce;

5)    Ever since 1994, when Republicans threw the very first immigration piñata party, demonizing and scapegoating immigrants and all Latinos to scare up votes here and there, Latinos have been on edge. It hasn’t helped calm fears any that, in the 17 years since then, there have been – at the state, local, and federal level – dozens of similar attempts to score points on their backs. They’re always waiting for the next one; and

6)    The debate is not over whether Latinos would be so angry with Obama that they even contemplate voting for a Republican — not after how despicably that party has behaved toward them. The real concern for Democrats is that disillusioned Latinos will be a no-show in the 2012 election, and that this could hurt the incumbent’s re-election chances.

That’s why Obama dug the immigration issue out of the freezer and flung it on the grill by calling a White House meeting of about 70 business, labor, and political leaders to restate his “commitment” to comprehensive immigration reform.

Oh, please. What commitment would that be? Obama never wanted immigration reform to begin with. He only uses the issue like a carrot dangled in front of a burro pulling a plow.

And do you know who else doesn’t want immigration reform? At least three elements of Obama’s liberal base: labor unions who live under the fantasy that illegal immigrants who tar roofs, pick peaches, build homes, clean horse stalls, and do other hard and dirty jobs are stealing gigs from Teamsters; African-Americans — who after generations of blaming whites for their misfortune, mistakes, and misdirection — have now taken to blaming Latinos for taking jobs; and classic liberals who only care that the Democratic Party keeps winning elections so it can fry the big fish (universal health care, redistribution of wealth, turning U.S. foreign policy into a war-free zone, and giving peace a chance, etc.) and who worry that immigration reform will cost Democrats the support of white voters.

That’s why the White House meeting was nothing more than pre-election year public relations. The only question is whether Latinos will fall for it, and let Obama off the hook.

Some won’t. They include Los Angeles-based activist Juan Jose Gutierrez, who was among the many who turned out to protest Obama’s visit. He told a Univision reporter that Latinos were fed up with Obama breaking his promise of reform and then turning around and breaking deportation records.

The disenchanted also include Chicago-based activist Emma Lozano, who told a reporter recently that, if she could say one thing to Obama, it would be this: “We’re getting the shit kicked out of us by you and your administration.

And they include Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-IL, who recently declared that he is undecided about whether to support Obama’s reelection bid. He has started a 20-city tour meant to embarrass Obama and the administration. Gutierrez wants Obama to use his executive power to halt deportations.

Fat chance. If Obama does that, he’ll pay a price during the election — especially from white voters, many of whom probably somehow find the idea of mass deportations oddly reassuring and consider it a viable strategy to reverse demographic trends.

Which brings us to the last thing you need to know about this latest Obama drama: This administration’s immigration policy is all about winning the votes of white people, not losing them. Keep it straight, people.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune, a nationally syndicated columnist, a frequent lecturer, and a regular contributor to CNN.com.
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