Washington – Most Latino voters in the United States consider immigration reform, the economy and jobs to be their community's priorities in the 2012 general elections, according to a new study.
The survey, taken by Latino Decisions and impreMedia, showed that 51 percent of voters said that immigration reform was the "most important" matter for the Hispanic community, while the economy and jobs were in second place with 35 percent, followed by education with 18 percent.
The priority that Latinos assign to immigration is largely due to some personal connection: 53 percent of those polled said they know an undocumented person, while 25 percent have a family member or acquaintance in the process of detention or deportation for immigration infractions.
"Immigration is a very personal issue for Latinos because of the effect it has on them, their friends, family and community," impreMedia CEO Monica Lozano said.
"The fact that immigration continues to be an unsolved issue is of great concern for Latino voters and they are anxious to see the president and Congress take action," according to Lozano, publisher of Los Angeles Spanish-language daily La Opinion.
Of those interviewed, 74 percent said they are in favor of stopping the deportation of any undocumented immigrant who has committed no crime and is married to a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
Some 64 percent want no more undocumented students deported who have no criminal records, while 60 percent want an end to deporting parents whose children are minors and who have committed no crimes.
The survey made it clear that both Democrats and Republicans have a long way to go to win Latino support.
By a margin of 65 percent to 19 percent, Hispanic voters said they have more faith in President Barack Obama and the Democrats taking the right decisions on immigration policy than they do in the Republicans.
Nonetheless, 43 percent of those polled believe that the Democrats and the U.S. Congress are dodging the issue and are not working on immigraton reform at all, while only 33 percent said they are working to achieve it.
"These are remarkable findings," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice Education Fund, an organization that supports immigrants' rights.
"Republicans should look at these findings and recognize the real damage that their anti-immigrant policies are doing to their ability to compete for and connect with Latino voters," he said. "And Democrats should be concerned about the growing disillusionment among Latino voters regarding the party's commitment to change in the area of immigration policy."
Democrats, according to Sharry, "must deliver on their promises of immigration reforms if they expect Latino voters to deliver for them."
Results of the survey were released at a time when President Obama is launching his reelection campaign for 2012, which includes a strategy to win the Hispanic vote as he did in 2008.
Next Tuesday, Obama will visit Puerto Rico on the first official visit by a U.S. president to the island since John F. Kennedy went there half a century ago.
Though Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship, those on the island cannot vote in presidential elections as their 4.1 million countrymen living in the United States are allowed to do.