President Barack Obama features undocumented immigrants in a new campaign ad that he does entirely in Spanish.
Titled “Buen Ejemplo,” which means “good example” in Spanish, Obama touts young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers as people he admires and who inspire him. Their drive and determination, the ad suggests, serve as a good model for everyone.
Obama in June announced a new initiative that involved suspending deportation for two years for undocumented immigrants between ages 15 and 31 who were brought as minors and who have no criminal record, among other things. The initiative, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, also offered the chance to obtain work permits.
Romney has said that as president he would end DACA as soon as he assumes office.
In the ad, which features scenes of undocumented students and their parents, Obama says: “In the young people known as DREAMers, I see the same qualities Michelle and I try to instill in our daughters. They respect their parents, they study for a better life, and they want to give back to the only country they know and love."
“As a father, they inspire me. And as President, their courage reminds me that no obstacle is too great. No road too long. Onward!”
“Buen Ejemplo” is airing on radio and television in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, all battleground states in what now indicates will be a close election.
The release of the ad, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, coincided with a media conference call, organized by the Obama campaign, that featured Benita Veliz, an undocumented immigrant and DREAMer who was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in September, and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid , Nevada Democrat, drawing contrasts between Romney and Obama on the fate of DREAMers.
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have been courting Latino voters, about 12 million of whom are expected to turn out to vote on Nov. 6. That turnout would be an increase of 26 percent from the 9.7 million who voted in 2008. Political experts say Romney would need 40 percent of Latino voters to win, and Obama would need 60 percent.
On Monday, Obama honored the legacy of the late civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez, whose “Si se puede” (“Yes, we can”) cry the president adopted as his campaign mantra. The president was in California Monday to participate in the dedication ceremony for the Cesar Chavez National Monument in California, a move that was seen as a way to win the good will of Latino voters.
Both Romney and Obama have made frequent trips to battleground states, including Florida, Nevada and Colorado, where Latinos could swing the vote.
The Romney campaign responded to a request for comment to Obama’s new ad with a statement that said: “President Obama had nearly four years to make good on his promise of immigration reform, but he has failed to do so and would rather play politics with this important issue."
“Mitt Romney will work in a bipartisan manner to achieve a long-term solution to our broken immigration system."
On Tuesday, the Romney campaign also put out a television ad, with a narrator speaking in Spanish, that says, according to a press release describing it, “The Hispanic community has worked hard to achieve the American Dream, but the President’s policies are hurting the growth of small businesses.”
It goes on to praise the entrepreneurial spirit of Latinos and vows that Romney will be the better candidate for strengthening small business growth.
Polls of likely Latino voters show that jobs and the economy are far more important issues to them when it comes to deciding on which candidate to support, but that the way immigration is discussed still matters. More than three-fourths of Latinos polled by Fox News Latino earlier this year said they support the DREAM Act.
DREAMers have been at the heart of the immigration debate in recent years, as advocates of more lenient immigration policies have seen them as the best chance for the United States to take a first step toward comprehensive immigration reform. Advocates want a reform that will include a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants, as well as enforcement.
But those who favor stricter immigration enforcement see any such measure as a form of amnesty, or rewarding lawbreakers.
Efforts to pass the DREAM Act, a measure that would offer a path to legalization for immigrants who meet a strict set of criteria -- including completion of a college degree or two years of military service --in Congress have failed several times, most recently in 2010, when it passed the House of Representatives, but not the Senate.
During the GOP primary, Romney took a hard line on immigration, saying he would veto the DREAM Act as president. He has since said he would support a version of it that focused on people who serve in the military.
Obama repeatedly has blamed Republicans for blocking efforts to pass immigration reform bills in Congress.
Romney has used Spanish in his campaign advertisements, but usually has used a narrator or his son, Craig, who is fluent in Spanish.
Obama also has released many ads in Spanish, normally using a narrator. It is not the first time he has done an entire ad in Spanish. In 2008, for example, he did an entire commercial in Spanish for voters in Puerto Rico as he sought their support for the June primary there. Residents of Puerto Rico, however, cannot vote in the general presidential election.
The use of Spanish in presidential ads is hardly new.
In 1960, Jacqueline Kennedy did an entire television campaign ad in Spanish, encouraging Latino voters to support her husband, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy.
Max Sevillia, director of policy and legislative affairs for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), said using Spanish to make overtures to Latinos is commendable, but it is only a small part of winning their confidence.
“It is even more critical to share with the Latino community what the positions of the candidate is,” Sevilla said.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente