As far as political issues go, immigration continuously comes in at or near the top of the list for Hispanics, yet they continue to support Obama for president, who has an increasingly negative appeal on the issue. Given recent polling numbers combined with the president’s record on immigration, you have to wonder: Are Hispanics contradicting themselves?
According to recent Latino Decisions polling, nearly 86% of Hispanics consider the economy and immigration to be the most important issues to Hispanics for 2012. In the case of immigration, the majority of Hispanics under the age of 50 think it’s the number one issue and it comes in a very close second for everyone else.
In a new poll, released by Pew Research, Hispanics favor Obama over any Republican candidate by at least 3-to-1. Yet, in the same poll, Hispanics disapprove of Obama’s current handling of the immigration issue 59% to 27%. Even among those who disapprove of the Administration’s policy, they still favor Obama by nearly 2-to-1 over almost any candidate.
If you are in favor of increased immigration, the Dream Act, immigration reform, and reduced deportations, it’s easy to understand the unfavorable rating towards the President. Even while he and his party dominated two branches of government for two years, immigration reform was not touched. Deportations have boomed to record levels, even averaging 75% higher than Bush’s averages over his entire Republican presidency, according to Pew. In fact, Dory Massey, head of the Mexican Migration Project (Princeton University), says that for the first time in sixty years, Mexican immigration has equaled emigration, causing a net zero increase.
Besides the increase in deportations, others have speculated that additional factors deterring immigrants from crossing the border are an increase in violence on the border along with a disheartening American economy that doesn’t offer quite the opportunity it once did. Whatever the reason, no one can deny the seeming contradiction in the numbers, unless you consider one other factor: a perceived lack of options in the Republican field.
If, however, you do consider immigration to be your number one issue, there may be some love for you among the Republican candidates.
In the past, the front-runner Romney has claimed to be in favor of a “process of registering [illegal immigrants],” as well as reduced deportation and a path to citizenship. Nonetheless, being on the verge of the Republican nomination, Romney has changed his mind and is now claiming the opposite. Whatever you believe his real stance to be, he might be someone to consider.
Paul and Santorum have consistently maintained the strongest positions against any form of legalization, including a path to citizenship or any other form of legalization. Paul even goes so far as to say he would repeal citizenship based solely on being born on American soil, while Santorum is a strong advocate for a border fence and “English-only” legislation. Probably not your cup of tea if you are an immigration advocate.
Immigration advocates might have a little more appreciation for Perry and Newt’s backgrounds. Perry has done a little flip-flopping himself, but he did implement a Texas Dream Act and has opposed SB1070 and E-verify. Newt, in his typical academic manner, attempts to make his stance a little more complicated than it really is. Bottom line, he favors a path to legalization for illegal immigrants, as well as a “high-skilled” guest worker program.
Regardless of your beliefs on immigration, there’s probably someone that feels the same as you in the Republican Party – at least someone that says they do.
Given what we know about Obama and the current cadre of political contenders, it’s hard to understand why Hispanics continue to support him so strongly. Or are they? New polling by Pew also shows a significant drop in Hispanic support for the President, while Republicans are seeing some gains. Is Republican marketing starting to work or has Democratic inaction (or wrong action) started to drive them away?
To quote my fellow Politic365 contributor, Alicia Menendez, when discussing how the voting outcomes in Hispanic strongholds of Florida and Nevada might give Romney a chance to “check himself before he wrecks himself,” given the number of appealing alternatives, the Obama administration might have to do the same.
Then again, since we have yet to see a primary vote in a state with a strong Hispanic presence, there might be a lot more checking to be done, by both sides, before we reach November.
JUSTIN VELEZ-HAGAN is Senior Contributing Writer and Commentator for Politic365.com. He is also the National Executive Director of The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, an international developer of senior living facilities, and is a reservist in the U.S. Air Force. He can be reached at Justin@Politic365.com