News Column

Hispanic Voters Wary on Immigration Issue

Oct. 8, 2012
Hispanic voters

Comments made by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during last week's debate highlighted his support of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and broader immigration reform.

The candidate's message is designed to bring voters like Victor Gonzalez into the fold, but Gonzalez said he reads more strategy in the move than authentic policy.

"(Obama) has seen that his support among Hispanics has waned, and Mitt sees his opening," Gonzalez said.

While recognizing it is an election year, Gonzalez is glad that immigration is taking a spotlight again after nearly a decade on the back-burner following the 9/11 attacks. He said Romney's comments alone wouldn't change his vote for the incumbent without further explanation, but he's not opposed to the idea.

"I don't really think it matters what party does it, we just need immigration reform," Gonzalez said, recalling Reagan's Immigration Reform and Control Act, which among other provisions extended amnesty to undocumented immigrants who entered the country before 1982.

"Whoever gains office (in November) is going to need to bring more attention to this issue," he said.

Wednesday's presidential debate was nearly overshadowed in Hispanic media outlets that instead chose to highlight significant developments in Romney's immigration policy.

"The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," Romney told The Denver Post ahead of a rally Monday.

"Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I have proposed," which on his website details promises of dramatically reduced regulations and residence permits for those with advanced degrees and military service, among other criteria.

Iliana Guerrero is waiting to see more clarity from the candidate before she gives the comments any weight.

"I don't know if I believe what he's saying," she said. "He's just not been that clear with us or the people who are voting for him."

Speaking in line at La Superior, Guerrero recalled the policies of the current administration.

"He (Obama) hasn't done anything major, but I think he's done more for immigration," than a Romney presidency would, she said.

Regarding the decision to implement Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, "better late than never," Guerrero said, adding that Romney's comments still haven't convinced her he will retain the program if elected.

She said it's a shared anxiety among people she knows who qualify for the program but haven't submitted their application, in part because of that uncertainty.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services expected 300,000 applications for the deferred action program by Oct. 1. The agency reported that only 120,000 people have applied so far, and approximately 200 have been approved.

"It does look good that he finally passed that law," Hector Marino said, adding, "That's the only thing I can really think of that he's done."

Marino, a Viaero Wireless customer service representative, sits on a stool opposite his co-worker Yesenia Coria at the store inside Tres Hermanos relating the story of his father, the member of his family with the most recent experience dealing with the immigration system.

He said the process has become a labyrinth and lax law enforcement has become an effective blanket amnesty.

"You know, not everyone who is here should be here," he said. "But they should all have a chance."

Coria added that another co-worker who works at the wireless service store airs her grievances about the immigration system as she tries to get legal residency for her husband.

"She said they keep giving her dates and they just keep moving it back and keep moving it back," said Coria, whose mother is still in Mexico trying to enter the U.S. legally.

Marino's frustrations with the political system also have to do with the idea that Hispanic voters are somehow focused only on immigration policy. Although eligible to vote, he's not yet convinced he should next month.

"I'm still trying to decide if I will," he said.

As far as what he would like to hear from candidates addressing Latino voters, "Immigration is a big focus," Marino said, "but I want to hear how they'll bring the economy back."

Source: (c)2012 the Columbus Telegram (Columbus, Neb.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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