Big Turnout Leads to Big Predictions of Immigration Reform
By Peter Malof Texas News Service
EL PASO, Texas - As political analysts debate whether this week's election results will ease the gridlock in Washington, D.C., some are predicting a quick breakthrough on at least one major issue. Immigration reform has been blocked in recent years - primarily by a Republican base that wants to seal the border first. That stance alienated enough Latino voters to help propel Democrats to a national victory this week, according to Adriana Cadena, statewide coordinator of the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance. She says Hispanic voters will not be satisfied with anything less than comprehensive reforms.
"That means providing venues through which people who are here undocumented can become U.S. citizens. There's really no other option, and the time is now."
The debate is already heating up. Some conservative activists say they will continue fighting what they see as amnesty for millions who are in the country illegally, but other Republicans are calling for a reexamination of their party's relationship to the growing Latino electorate. President Obama, meanwhile, wants reforms enacted soon, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to introduce a bill in the coming year.
Cadena thinks the election was a wake-up call for politicians, who now recognize that the large Latino turnout - 10 percent of the total - was only the beginning.
"There's going to be a continued increase of Latino participation at the polls. For many years, people have been waiting for the "sleeping giant" to wake up. It has been years in the making, and it will continue to grow."
Even though 69 percent of Latinos nationally voted Democratic, she says that support cannot be taken for granted. While the Obama administration over the past year eased up on deporting certain undocumented immigrants, many advocates are upset with the President for not trying harder to pass more comprehensive reform, as promised, during his first term.
Both parties, Cadena insists, will need to get serious about immigrant concerns if they expect to win Hispanic voters in the future.
"If they continue along this path of being anti-immigrant, they're going to be on the wrong side of history. They have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to gain if they actually treat Latinos with dignity and respect."
Cadena does not buy the argument that reform must wait until the border is secure. She points out that President Obama deported a record number of undocumented immigrants during his first four years, and that the number of unauthorized border crossings is lower than it has been in decades.