President Obama's Latino Love Affair
Today, Politico has a full-length article about the Obama administration's courting of their most vital demographic - Latino voters. This is something that I've been blogging about since well before the election. Last November, Latinos turned out in record numbers to support the now-President Obama. Much of that support was based on his promise to push for immigration reform, a priority issue on the Latino community's agenda. In February, President Obama went on the El Piolin show (an outrageously popular Latino radio show hosted by El Piolin, Eduardo Sotelo) And last week, the administration invited Sotelo to the White House to have a sit-down conversation with the President.
“We need to be able to communicate through radio and obviously you’ve got the biggest listenership so we’ve got to make sure you’re involved,” Obama said in the interview.
The blossoming friendship between the administration and El Piolin is just the tip of the iceberg of the new inclusion of the Latino community. Latinos have been included in all major policy discussion since Obama took office. And many already feel the doors of opportunity being opened. The President has also visited Arizona (a border state with a high Latino population) twice in his time in office, including giving the commencement speech at Arizona State University last night.
However, as Luis Gutierrez, the Congressional leader on immigration reform puts it:
“He will ultimately be judged by the Hispanic community on what he does for the weakest and most vulnerable,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the veteran Chicago Democrat, referring to the issue on which he’s become a national leader, comprehensive immigration reform.
Obama has committed to immigraiton reform publicly - the story broke in April, with a HUGE response from advocates to support the gesture. He noted he would be making a public statement about reform sometime this May, though we are still waiting for this cue.
Even Rahm Emanuel, who has been an opponent of previous reform bills, has acknowledged his support for reform. Rep. Gutierrez notes that Rahm, who is well-known for his shrewd and calculating politics, has to make good on reform if the administration wants to stay in good favor with Latino voters.
“If Rahm thinks he can get away with not doing anything on immigration and still have the support of Latino voters, it won’t get done,” said Gutierrez, who has had a long and at times contentious relationship with his fellow Chicago pol.
While there are certainly other issues on the docket for the Latino community, it seems that immigration reform is the most pressing and the most widely supported. The administration acknowledges it will be a tough battle to pass a reform bill, but as I've said before, it seems that the momentum for such a bill continues to grow by the day.
When Piolin asked Obama if he had the votes in Congress on immigration reform, the president was candid.
“Probably not yet,” he said
But when it comes time to rally support for the bill, Obama said he would need the talk show host’s help. “You can count on me,” Piolin assured.