As we reflect about the billion dollars in damage caused by the Superstorm Sandy, we know that Latino and immigrant workers will be an essential part of the workforce rebuilding our towns and cities.
We will get to work repairing our homes and communities, but also remain focused on our core priority of assuring a strong voter turnout on Nov 6.We know firsthand that there is too much at risk to pause while we recuperate from Sandy’s devastation.
More than one million families have been separated by deportation in the last four years, laws that open the door to racial profiling remain intact, and Congress’ inaction to connect economic growth with immigration reform are among the frustrations of Latinos driving us to the polls.
In essence, it is fair to say that human and civil rights of Latinos and immigrants are in peril.
A record voter turnout of 12 million Latinos is expected for the 2012 presidential election. As many as 23 million Latinos are eligible to vote this presidential cycle, 22 percent more than in 2008, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Moreover, the large Latino constituency in battleground states such as Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, and Pennsylvania strongly adds to the value of their vote. Correspondingly, multiple polls position nearly 70 percent of Latinos voting to reelect President Obama.
And President Obama understands this calculation perfectly.
The president himself expressed optimism on this score in a recent Des Moines Register interview.
“A big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country," Obama said. "The Latino community."
It is encouraging to hear from the President himself that he is indebted to Latinos. It is a debt that must be repaid with action.
It is truly a testament to the miscalculations of Republicans that the President garners this level of support despite some significant missteps by his administration as it fumbled in resolving the civil and human’s rights crisis facing this country. But Latinos are far from being naïve. To the contrary, the Latino community has grown politically savvy the past years.
Latino students have become one of the most politically active demographics across the nation. Their passion to achieve justice by legalizing undocumented youth – known as DREAMers – is electrifying. They are a true example of what being American means: people with a strong sense of justice and an eagerness to contribute financially and socially to their only country, the United States.
The persistence of DREAMers to obtain deferred action for undocumented youth – a form of relief that halts deportation and allows people to work – during Obama’s first presidential term is a victory for the Latino and immigrant movement.
By the same token, the arduous work of highly organized Latino and immigrant communities to stop or at least diminish the impact of divisive state-wide anti-immigrant and voter suppression legislation in different parts of the nation, led by Republicans, are also colossal victories.
Latinos are demonstrating that we know how to use our political power. And this election is no exception.
As President Obama points out, the agenda of hate that has separated Latinos from the Republican Party is indeed the reason why Latinos prefer to re-elect a President committed to pass immigration reform in his second term over a candidate who has pledged to continue an agenda that treats Latinos as second class citizens.
President Obama and his party will be held responsible for years to come if they fail to deliver passage of immigration reform, as promised. Democrats can’t rely forever on Republican incompetence. The fastest growing community in the nation may give Democrats a second try in 2012, but that is not a permanent pass.
Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action, is a Board Member of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.