Latino voters could make the difference Tuesday in a tight presidential race—especially in battleground states such as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where the Latino population has grown exponentially. Latinos are now 16 percent of the U.S. population and account for a record 11 percent of the nation’s eligible electorate. This year, 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote—four million more than in the 2008 presidential election.
But despite the growing number of Latinos eligible to vote, approximately 10 million did so in 2008. Will 2012 break the pattern of voter participation being lower than that of other population groups? What will motivate Latino voters to go to the polls, and what issues will influence how they cast their ballots?
Immigration: A Key Issue for Many Latino Voters
Issues that are critical in the Latino community—such as the economy, employment, education, and health care—are the same issues that matter to the rest of the nation. However, immigration reform is also a top concern and was the subject of heated exchanges throughout the campaigns including in the vice presidential and presidential debates. Many Latinos have acutely felt the consequences of a failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and the Obama administration has deported an estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants each year since 2008, more than any previous administration.
Obama’s executive order of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), issued in June, was greeted with much enthusiasm across the immigrant community even though it is only a two-year, temporary policy. While it is expected to potentially benefit 1.4 million undocumented young people hoping to avoid deportation, DACA does not guarantee a path to citizenship and applicants must meet stringent conditions to qualify. While the measure promises to provide some temporary relief, many DREAMERS are refraining from filing their paperwork. And the anxiety is only growing—Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promised to not renew Obama’s DACA and instead replace it with his own measure. Few additional details have been provided. If Romney wins the election, some DREAMERS are weary that any personal information the government obtains through the Deferred Action application process could be used against them at a later date.
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro was chosen yesterday to deliver the keynote address at the forty-sixth Democratic National Convention (DNC), to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, from September 4-6. Castro, 37, is the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city and will be the first Latino to give keynote remarks at the DNC. Other notable speakers include First Lady Michelle Obama, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and former President Bill Clinton.
In a video message posted yesterday on DemConvention.com, Castro says that he was inspired by Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC keynote address that catapulted the then-senator into the national spotlight, and ultimately, the presidency. He praises Obama for championing the Affordable Health Care Act and keeping his commitment to creating opportunities for the middle class. Castro published a profile of another one of his heroes, Cesar Chavez, in the Spring 2012 issue of Americas Quarterly on Social Inclusion.
Castro is one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars and the New York Times has called him “the favorite to fill the [national Hispanic] leadership void.” Past DNC organizers see his keynote address as a strategic opportunity to rally Latino support, which has grown tremendously in Charlotte and across the South over the past decade.
Obama maintains a lead over Mitt Romney among Latinos in five swing states, according to polling data published Monday. Last year, Castro spoke with AS/COA in an exclusive interview about the growth of the Latino population in the U.S., how San Antonio leads the way for immigrant integration and the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform.
From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
VP Biden Meets with Mexican and CentAm Leaders
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Mexico and Honduras this week. In Mexico, Biden met with President Felipe Calderón, where the two discussed trade ties, illegal arms trafficking, and the decriminalization of drugs. Biden qualified that third topic as “worth discussing,” but added that “there is no possibility the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy.” Biden also met with the three main Mexican presidential candidates: Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Enrique Peña Nieto, and Josefina Vázquez Mota. Biden pledged that the Obama administration plans to work with whoever wins the July elections, a promise Bloggings by Boz’s James Bosworth calls “an important gesture in this political climate.” Shannon O’Neil writes for LatIntelligence that the meeting showed how far Mexico’s democracy has come: “A few decades ago a U.S. official meeting with opposition candidates would have caused great consternation and tension between the governments; today it is accepted and even expected.” On Tuesday, Biden traveled to Tegucigalpa to meet with the presidents of Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama. Biden addressed the challenges in confronting transnational crime and promised an additional $107 million for the Central American Regional Security Initiative.
Mexico to the United States: Let Us in to the TPP
In an op-ed for Politico, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Bruno Ferrari García de Alba urges the United States to let Mexico enter negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade agreement involving nine countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. Writes Ferrari: “Mexico’s inclusion in the TPP would be of real value to Washington—not only because it could provide an immediate boost to U.S. exports but also because increased Mexican sales to TPP markets would translate into more U.S. exports, a virtuous cycle. It would result in more jobs on both sides of the border.”
Mexico Hosts First Think-20 Research Summit
Writing for World Politics Review, the Stanley Foundation’s David Shorr reflects on last week’s Think-20, a summit held in Mexico City that brought together 22 representatives from research institutions around the world to discuss this year’s G20 agenda. The February 27 and 28 meetings were the first of their kind held in conjunction with the G20. “[T]he essential function of think tanks is to provide strategic perspective and innovative policy frameworks,” writes Schorr. “Hitching those capabilities more closely to the G20 may indeed prove helpful.”
AS/COA Online covers the Think-20 on its Mexico City Conference blog. The annual AS/COA event held in Mexico’s capital takes place this year on March 13 and will explore Mexico’s global leadership role in the context of its G20 presidency. Visit www.as-coa.org/Mexico2012 for an agenda, analysis, and to tune into the live webcast on the day of the event.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.