In June 2013, a bipartisan group of senators (including presidential hopeful Marco Rubio) passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that President Obama promised to sign. Since then, Republicans have worked hard to distance themselves from that bill — Rubio stopped talking about it altogether, and Speaker of the House John Boehner says he won't bring it to the House floor. Now many Latinos are so disillusioned that they don't want to vote at all, making Boehner and the gang's gamble all too worth it.
The New York Times noted Sunday that "immigrant-rights advocates report mounting disillusionment with both parties among Latinos, enough to threaten recent gains in voting participation that have reshaped politics to Democrats’ advantage nationally." Since President Obama and the Democrats haven't been able to overcome House Republican opposition to immigration reform, many Latinos are planning not to vote at all in the coming midterm elections, the Times reports. While most blame the GOP for blocking reform, they don't see good reasons to vote for Democrats, either.
Lisa Duran, the executive director of immigrant-rights group Rights for All People, tells the Times,
There’s a sense from some people that there’s nowhere to turn, and I’m afraid they’re just going to be frozen in frustration. It’s absolutely imperative that we not let that happen.
MSNBC reporter Adam Serwer responded to the Times piece by tweeting, "This is why Republicans blocking immigration reform wasn't politically dumb after all." Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent disagrees — he still thinks the GOP will be more damaged by the immigration reform failure. Leticia Zavala, a constituent in Colorado (where Latinos made up 14 percent of the voting population in 2012), puts it this way:
Many people are angry and upset because Obama promised so much and it’s been how many years? But the Republicans aren’t doing anything. We have something; there’s a bill. And for us to sit here in March 2014 with nothing — people are just really upset.
The evidence that Latinos won't turn out for 2014 remains anecdotal — Sargent argues that Latino voters will make a difference in states like New Mexico, Florida, Colorado, and Texas. Turnout projections released earlier this month based on U.S. Census data reflect that claim. Of course, if the Obama administration continues to deport illegal immigrants at the same rate (almost 2 million so far), he could turn off even more voters.
So Latino turnout in 2014 is pretty much up to the president at this point. One national Hispanic leader referred to him as the "deporter-in-chief" earlier this year, but Obama says he doesn't have the power to stop deportations of illegal adults under existing laws. Bottom line: voters want to see some kind of action between now and November. Talk show host Fernando Sergio says, "People feel like he's made some promises that he hasn’t fulfilled, that he can do more."