Obama vs Romney: Both Vie for the Latino Vote 2012, But Neither Offers an Immigration Reform Solution

On Thursday, President Obama gave a short interview on the Hispanic channel Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish-language network in the United States, in which he briefly discussed his ideas on immigration. 

During his nomination speech at the Republican National Convention, former Governor Mitt Romney said that America is a “nation of immigrants” at the very opening. Both Obama and Romney are aiming at the Hispanic electorate, currently the biggest immigrant population in the United States with outsize influence in the key swing state of Florida. In the last presidential election, the Hispanic vote has became more and more decisive, and now politicians pay close attention to the Hispanic vote. But besides words and promises, neither party is showing initiative and leadership to tackle the illegal immigration problems.

The only Republican candidate that offered a reasonable proposal was Newt Gingrich, who put forth a solution to the low skilled workers that are crossing the Southwest frontier on a daily basis, but we all know that you cannot be so controversial without becoming unelectable. On the other hand, Romney, in order to win his party’s base, ran strong on immigration, and now he is attempting to change this in the general election. 

However, President Obama does not have the correct approach either. Instead, in his latest State of the Union address, he only offered a comprehensive plan to ease the foreign students immigration process, but not to the really critical population: the low skilled workers that are vastly handling the agricultural and service sectors of the U.S. economy. In what matters to good policy, both parties remain unwilling to solve the problem, but both agree that it is essential to win the Latino vote to actually win the presidential election.

Florida itself justifies fighting for the Hispanic vote. Let us not forget that it was that state, and by a slight advantage, that allowed George W. Bush to become president. And it is almost certain that, without Florida, Republicans will most likely lose the election. Carrying that state gives them hopes of victory, the best reason for Democrats to attempt taking it. Vice President Joe Biden stressed the weight of the Latino vote even further when he said that it is “the most powerful force in U.S. politics.” That might be an overstatement, but it proves that their influence has grown enormously and if the rest of the electorate remains the same, then Hispanics will make the final difference.

This means problems for Republicans, because even though Romney is now trying to show an amiable face on immigration, his party’s base has been very insistent on curtailing Hispanic immigration at all cost, with extreme positions that call for massive deportations. This is one of the Tea Party’s articles of faith. Accepting that the population of Hispanic voters has grown so big that it has become the first minority in the country, any Republican presidential candidate will have a tougher time than any Democrat to win, if they do not attempt to shift this position somehow. Demographic arithmetic demands it, unless Republicans would rather give the federal executive to the Democrats for the next two or three consecutive elections. 

In the meantime, Hispanics await a reasonable solution to the problem of their broken families, divided between law and lawlessness.