Obama Immigration Reform Policy is a Step in the Right Direction, But Mitt Romney and Barack Obama Must Stop Ignoring Hispanic Voters

The 2012 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up to be defined by how well the candidates authentically embrace the Hispanic voter and their voice. It will not only be a deciding factor in who holds office for the next four years, but will also influence how far Hispanics will advance during the next presidential term.

From their local communities to the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico, Hispanics are sending a powerful message that says it’s time to respect our voice if you want to earn our trust and with it our vote. This was made abundantly clear during a non-partisan 2012 Hispanic Voice Town Hall initiative undertaken by the Center for Hispanic Leadership – launched specifically to help Hispanics have a voice and define an agenda for a better America.

Though President Barack Obama’s recent decision to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants is a move in the right direction, it by no means guarantees that he will have the Hispanic vote in the November election. In fact, the decision means U.S. Senator Marco Rubio must now re-evaluate the Republican Party’s plan to ignite loyalty between Mitt Romney and Hispanic voters. Both candidates would do well to follow one simple strategy, and that is to make a genuine commitment to their Hispanic constituents that recognize their authentic voice.

To ignore or misrepresent the Hispanic voter at this point is to discount or minimize the value of their voice. Attempts to play it safe will weaken credibility, and not just with Hispanics; all minorities are paying attention to the way these candidates respond to the changing face of America.

To avoid alienating the Hispanic community, you must work with them to solve problems together. When you mandate the rules instead of working together – whether it’s immigration reform, the Dream Act, or some other issue affecting the community – it is interpreted as a sign of disrespect. Hispanics will align themselves with the candidate who wants to strengthen their identity and doesn’t limit their role in policy-making conversations to hot button issues.

Listen carefully to what the Hispanic community is saying in these conversations. False promises will not win them over; they have heard it all before in their mother countries. This is why the majority of eligible Latino voters have not yet registered to vote. But even those who are registered have yet to be given a reason to vote.  

The candidate who gives them a reason will do so by empowering their voice and changing the conversation about how we define Hispanics in America. Hispanics are intrinsically linked to the future of the economy and jobs in this country, and the candidates must integrate this message into their campaigns. After all, Hispanics will represent 30% of the U.S. population by 2050, and our current economic woes are nothing compared to the consequences of ignoring the voice of the fastest-rising group in America.

You can get educated about this business and societal imperative at our new Hispanic Training Center.