Hispanic Heritage Month brings immigration reform to the fore

Published September 17, 2012


President Barack Obama, who decreed a pause in the deportation of undocumented immigrant youths, agrees with his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, on one thing: that the big pending matter for the nation is the comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system.

The celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month less than two months ahead of the Nov. 6 election is a chance for parties and politicians to proclaim the importance of the more than 50 million Hispanics living in the United States.

In political terms, the group includes 23 million adults over age 18 born in Latin America or the children of immigrants and, more specifically, the 11 million of them who are eligible to vote.

Obama won the presidency in 2008 with 67 percent of the Latino vote and remains popular among Hispanics, especially after he decreed the suspension of deportations of undocumented youths who meet certain requirements.

The celebration of the Latin American and Spanish contribution to the United States was begun in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week by the decision of then-President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, and then expanded to an entire month in 1988 under Republican Ronald Reagan.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, since during this period Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile all have their independence celebrations, and it also recalls Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in October 1492.

In the annual presidential proclamation, Obama recalled that Latinos "have led movements that pushed our country closer to realizing the democratic ideals of America's founding documents."

The president, who in his 3 1/2 years in office has not sent to Congress any initiative on immigration, reiterated that his administration remains "steadfast in our pursuit of meaningful legislative immigration reform."

Romney, who opposed the suspension of deportations and during the GOP primaries gave a very tough speech against undocumented immigration, on Monday visited the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles in a new attempt to garner support among the Latino electorate.

In his speech, according to the extracts provided to the press, the candidate promises that he will work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently correct the immigration system.

Neither Obama nor Romney has provided many details about what he would do about the 12 million undocumented foreigners who live and work - many of whom have been here for decades and have raised families - in the United States.

While the much-mentioned comprehensive immigration reform is still not on the books, the Hispanic population is changing and is much more diverse than the stereotypes the politicians use.

Between 2000 and 2010, 58 percent of the growth in the Hispanic population was due to births and not to immigrant arrivals.

In the last decade, the largest wave of immigration in history from a single country - Mexico - to the United States ceased and almost 51 percent of the Mexican immigrants in this country are here legally, and, moreover, 74 percent of all Latino immigrants are in the United States legally. EFE