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October 2013

Latino politics in second Obama term: Still on outside looking in?



by Angelo Falcon

NBC Latino (October 26, 2013)

How do we characterize Latino politics at the national level in the current context of this post-shutdown period? This is significant since our current situation is still full of polarized economic and political issues which could even include another possible shutdown.

One important set of players in this process are Latino opinion leaders, individuals in pivotal positions in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, that play a disproportionate role in setting the Latino agenda. These are the individuals who are significant players in community organizations, the media, business and other important community institutions that negotiate with the powers that be politically nd intellectually on behalf of the Latino community.

Over the years the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) has developed an extensive and unique listing of such Latino opinion leaders from throughout the country, and from time to time we conduct surveys to get their views on issues of importance to the Latino community. We recently conducted a National Latino Opinion Leaders Survey. Although this is one of the largest survey of Latino influentials, it is not presented as a scientific poll but as a vehicle for promoting discussion on key issues facing the Latino community in the United States.

Here are some of the key findings: 

President Obama. The Latino opinion leaders were mixed to negative in their assessment of the Obama Administration’s relations with the Latino community. Asked whether Obama’s election was a good or bad thing for Latinos, 44 percent saw it as good, 11 percent as bad, and 44 percent as a mix of bad and good. And whether the Obama Administration has adequately included Latinos, 73 percent feels that it hasn’t.

This is largely a reflection on the fact that the number of Latinos in Obama’s Cabinet has dropped from only two in his first term to only one in his second. In addition, Latinos remain the most underrepresented group in federal government employment: despite being 15 percent of the civilian labor force, they make up only 8 percent of the federal government workforce. 

The Major Political Parties. Latino opinion leaders felt that both the Democratic and Republican parties, at both the national and local levels, were not being responsive to the Latino community. At the national level, 57 percent felt that the Democratic Party was not being responsive to the Latino community, compared to 80 percent who thought the same about the Republican Party.

Latino Unity. Although the majority of the Latino opinion leaders (55 percent) felt that the Latino community had a common agenda and interests, a greater percentage (68 percent) felt that this community was disunited.

The Most Influential Latinos. The following four were considered to be the most influential Latino leaders when it came to negotiating with the Obama Administration: Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor (20 percent), Chicago Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (15 percent), Florida US Senators Marco Rubio (12 percent)  and Bob Menendez (6 percent).

The Most Trusted Latino Organizations. The Latino opinion leaders identified the following two Latino organizations as the ones they most trusted in dealing with the Obama Administration: The National Council of La Raza (17 percent) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (7 percent). However, close to half (46 percent) couldn’t name any.

Latino Policy Preferences. When asked what the top priority of the Obama second term should be for the country in general, the top three were Jobs (20 percent), Education (17 percent) and Immigration (15 percent). However, when asked the same question specifically addressed to the Latino community’s concerns, Immigration topped the list (32 percent), followed by Education (21 percent) and the “same as for the  country as a whole” (13 percent).

In their preferred approaches to addressing the nation’s economic problems, the Latino opinion leaders clearly supported positions that called for an activist and expanded government role, as opposed to conservative positions such as smaller government. They also were strongly in favor of Obamacare and held positions that were not supportive of the major provisions of the US Senate and House Democratic immigration reform bills.

There was significant disagreement among the Latino opinion leaders when it came to the future political status of Puerto Rico. The stateside Puerto Ricans in the survey were most supportive of independence for Puerto Rico (41 percent), following by some form of the current commonwealth status (26 percent) and statehood (25 percent).

The non-Puerto Rican Latino opinion leaders were, on the other hand, most supportive of statehood (33 percent), followed by independence (23 percent), with very few preferring some form of the current commonwealth status (7 percent). Only 9 percent of the stateside Puerto Rican opinion leaders didn’t know, were not sure or didn’t care, compared to 37 percent of the non-Puerto Ricans.

Despite the troubling picture drawn by the views of these Latino opinion leaders, they nonetheless remain very optimistic about the future of the country as a whole (23 percent) and even more optimistic about the future of the Latino community (44 percent). This is encouraging in revealing a positive outlook in the face of what most see as major political challenges facing their community under the Obama administration.

Angelo Falcón is President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). For further information on NiLP, visit our website, www, He can be reached at

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Democrats Aim to Restore Immigration to Agenda

By  and 

Published: October 18, 2013

Mr. Obama raised the issue in his first comments after lawmakers reached a deal to reopen the government, and on the night the shutdown ended the three top Senate Democrats said they hoped to extend the bipartisan moment that produced the compromise by taking up immigration.

“Let’s move on,” said the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. He added that he hoped “the next venture is making sure we do immigration reform.”

But the possibilities for progress on the issue will be determined in the House of Representatives, where many conservative Republicans are fuming with frustration over their meager gains from the two-week shutdown and turning their ire against Mr. Obama, saying he failed to negotiate with them. It will be up to Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio to discern whether relations with the White House are simply too raw for House Republicans to consider legislation on an issue the president has made a priority.

Many Democrats and some Republicans are arguing that passing a broad immigration bill could be a way for Republicans to come back from the bruising they took in the polls during the shutdown. “When the Republican polling numbers are at 20 percent, there’s a pretty strong argument to do something to get those poll numbers up, and immigration is a good way to do that,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

The effort to repair the immigration system has attracted support across the political spectrum, including from traditional Republican allies like business, agriculture and evangelical Christians. The Senate passed a sweeping bill in June on a bipartisan vote. But lawmakers on both sides agreed that the window for action on immigration is narrow, most likely limited to the remaining months of this year, before the next fiscal deadlines, or maybe to early next spring.

Mr. Boehner would like to make progress this year on immigration, a spokesman said Friday. “The speaker remains committed to a step-by-step process to fix our broken immigration system,” said the spokesman, Michael Steel.

But House Republican leaders are waiting to gauge the intensity of distrust of the White House among fractious conservatives in their caucus.

“The president’s attitude and actions over the past few weeks have certainly made getting anything done on immigration considerably harder,” a senior Republican aide said.

Several Republicans who had been working on immigration bills before the shutdown said they no longer believed Mr. Obama would negotiate fairly.

“I think what he has done over the last two and a half weeks, he’s tried to destroy theRepublican Party,” Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho, said Wednesday. “I think that anything we do right now with this president on immigration will be with that same goal in mind, which is to destroy the Republican Party and not to get good policies.”

If the House takes any action, it will probably be on smaller measures that emerged earlier this year from the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees. The Judiciary Committee, led by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, approved four bills that deal with enforcement, agricultural guest workers and high-skilled visas. A homeland security bill would tighten border security.

Republican lawmakers, including Mr. Goodlatte and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, have been working on a bill to give legal status to young immigrants who came here illegally as children. But no bill has been introduced and no decisions have been made on who would introduce it, Republican aides said Friday.

House Democrats predicted Republicans would be spurred on by an interest in showing skeptical voters that they can produce results.

“I’m more optimistic because what prevailed at the end of this Republican shutdown and potential default was a clear message that this is not how you run government,” said Representative Xavier Becerra of California, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Republicans who want an immigration bill were encouraged that Mr. Boehner survived the shutdown retaining the support of the conservatives who set it off; they hope the speaker will be emboldened to move on immigration legislation, which is still controversial within his conference.

Many Democrats say Mr. Boehner could quickly pass a bill similar to the Senate’s if he would allow a vote like the one that ended the shutdown, to pass legislation with both Democratic and Republican votes.

Pressure for that option from advocacy groups is growing and intensifying. In recent days, protesters held sit-ins and blocked roadways at immigration detention centers in several cities.

“For our families, this is intensely personal,” Kica Matos of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a rights coalition, said Friday. “It’s about keeping mothers with sons, fathers with daughters. We will no longer stand for the Republican family separation agenda that has torn us apart for far too long.”

A version of this article appears in print on October 19, 2013, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Democrats Aim to Restore Immigration To Agenda.

Obama Says Will Push Immigration After Fiscal Crisis Over

WASHINGTON | Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:38pm EDT
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that stalled immigration reform would be a top priority once the fiscal crisis has been resolved.

“Once that’s done, you know, the day after, I’m going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform,” he told the Los Angeles affiliate of Spanish-language television network Univision.

The president’s domestic agenda has been sidetracked in his second term by one problem after another. As he coped with the revelation of domestic surveillance programs, chemical weapons in Syria, and a fiscal battle that has shut down the U.S. government and threatens a debt default, immigration has been relegated to the back burner.

But Obama, who won re-election with overwhelming Hispanic backing, had hoped to make reforms easing the plight of the 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

In June, the Senate passed an immigration overhaul, but House of Representatives Republicans are divided over the granting of legal status to those in the country illegally, a step many see as rewarding lawbreakers.

Although the president had sought comprehensive reform, he said last month he would be open to the House taking a piece-by-piece approach if that would get the job done.

Obama on Tuesday blamed House Speaker John Boehner for preventing immigration from coming up for a vote.

“We had a very strong Democratic and Republican vote in the Senate,” he said. “The only thing right now that’s holding it back is, again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

Boehner said the sweeping Senate bill would not pass the House and has said the lower chamber would tackle the issue in smaller sections that would include stricter provisions on border protection.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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US-Raised Immigrants try to Return Across the Border

Associated Press 


LAREDO, Texas (AP) — Nearly three dozen migrants marched across the U.S.-Mexico border without papers Monday, the latest group of a younger generation brought to the U.S. illegally as children that seeks to confront head-on immigration policies they consider unjust.

Wearing a colorful array of graduation-style caps and gowns, 34 young people who spent long stretches of their childhoods in U.S. cities like Phoenix and Boston chanted “undocumented and unafraid” as they crossed the Rio Grande into Texas. Customs officials separated them from regular pedestrian traffic and the rest of their entourage before beginning lengthy interviews.

The risks borne by their parents’ generation involved dangerous journeys through darkness across desert and river. The teenagers and 20-somethings who crossed Monday face what could be weeks in detention and possible deportation as part of what could be a growing form of public protest.

They follow the “Dream Nine,” a smaller group that attempted to enter the U.S. at Nogales, Arizona, in July. They requested asylum and were released after about two weeks in detention to await their turn before a judge. Monday’s contingent expected something similar.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, whose officers determine who is admitted at the border, said privacy laws prohibited it from discussing any individual cases.

View gallery.”

Wearing graduation-style caps and gowns, U.S.-raised …

Wearing graduation-style caps and gowns, U.S.-raised immigrants Edna Flores, 22, left, and Nallely B …

At the heart of both groups’ protest was a change to U.S. immigration regulations made in June 2012 giving something called deferred action to immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. Those who were in the U.S. at that time and met a list of criteria they could apply for a renewable two-year deferment and work authorization.

But the young people crossing Monday had left the U.S., either voluntarily or through deportation, months, weeks or even just days before the deferred action announcement, commonly known as DACA.

“We look at this action today and the Dream Nine as a type of extension of DACA,” said David Bennion, an immigration lawyer travelling with the group. “What we would like to see is the people who left, like these 30 who otherwise would have qualified for DACA, to have that be taken into consideration.”

There were several minors in Monday’s group, including 17-year-old Luis Enrique Rivera Lopez. He came to the border from Guasabe in Sinaloa, a Mexican state that he had known only by its reputation for drugs and violence before going there from Los Angeles early last year.

“I wanted to have a sense of my roots,” Rivera said of his decision to return to Mexico, where he hadn’t been since he was 1. “I wanted to know where I was from.” He considered studying to become a chef specializing in the seafood dishes of Sinaloa, but was forced to start high school over again in Mexico.

View gallery.”

Wearing graduation-style cap and gown, U.S.-raised …

Wearing graduation-style cap and gown, U.S.-raised immigrant Alberto Peniche, 20, born in Mexico Cit …

The experience was rewarding in some ways. He got to know both sets of grandparents. But after 19 months away he missed his parents and three siblings who remained in Los Angeles. He also found he didn’t fit in after having grown up in Los Angeles.

“When I got to Sinaloa I didn’t dress like anyone. My haircut was different. My style of walking was different. My Spanish was like way off,” he said.

David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the tactic concerned him.

“The focus now should be on getting the House of Representatives to do its job and fix the immigration system,” Leopold said. “I don’t know that these actions move that issue forward.”

The group underwent detailed planning for the crossing. The participants arrived at a migrant shelter in Nuevo Laredo several days early. A series of meetings trained them on how to conduct themselves. What they wore, the order they walked in and what they carried was all determined.

View gallery.”

Wearing graduation-style caps and gowns, U.S.-raised …

Wearing graduation-style caps and gowns, U.S.-raised immigrants wait on the Mexican side of the inte …

Lorena Marisol Vargas, 19, left her home in Tucson, Arizona, in April 2012, less than two months before the deferred action announcement. She had travelled to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas, to interview in the hope of getting a visa to be in the U.S. But the visa was denied and she was not permitted to return.

Vargas’ mother, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had to return to the United States without her. The teenager who had lived in the U.S. since she was 6 went to Uruapan in Michoacan state to live with relatives she hardly knew.

“To me, my home is Tucson, Arizona. I was raised there,” Vargas said.


Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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