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Immigration reform and the Latino vote

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Last Tuesday in Nevada, Pres. Obama declared his intention to pursue a comprehensive immigration reform to provide 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country with a path to legalization. The audience symbolized the voting population of Latinos that helped re-elect him last November.

A day earlier, a bipartisan group of senators held a press conference in Washington, stating a set of principles, or triggers, to be included in any future immigration bill. The surprise of the week was the presence of Republican leaders, prompting Pres. Obama to declare, “So at this moment it looks like there’s genuine desire to get this done soon. And that’s very encouraging.”

During the recent presidential election, Latinos launched an aggressive drive to remind Pres. Obama of his failed promise for a comprehensive immigration reform he made during his first presidential bid. Thousands of organized young students came out of the shadows to claim their right to live as Americans and attain higher educational dreams without fear of deportation. A contrite Pres. Obama, labeled the “Deportation President” for his historic record of raids and deportations of immigrants during his first tenure, restated his promise, once again, and Latinos showed him what they could do at the electoral booth. Sen. John McCain voiced the dramatic awakening of some Republican leaders when saying, “We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours.”

This tug of war to win the Latino vote in future elections will be defined by Latino pragmatism.

A cultural trait we Latinos share regardless of our country of origin is that of being a desconfiado, a person who is wary or distrustful. I wonder if the tale of La Caperucita Roja has anything to do with it. If you remember, little red riding hood was almost eaten by the wolf who impersonated her grandmother. Despite the many promises the impostor made to the vulnerable girl, she finally discovered that his true intention was to gobble her up.

Most Latinos you ask today about both announcements from the president and the bipartisan senators quickly respond, “Veremos”, which is our way of saying “Show me.”

And there are reasons to be concerned. A debate has begun over what conditions will frame the path to legalization. Republicans want more border enforcement and temporary permits for low-skilled workers. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American favorite of the extreme right, appeared on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show soon after Limbaugh ranted that he could stop any amnesty attempt. “Immigrants today come here because they believe that government is the source of prosperity,” he told Rubio.  But the senator reassured him, “Unless there’s a real enforcement trigger, we are not going to have a bill that moves on the opportunity to apply for a green card.”

Rubio added that the triggers include denying health insurance to 11 million people.

Pres. Obama said the debate cannot be endless. In the meantime, I’m sure Latinos can figure out who the wolf is.


By Sylvia Rosales-Fike. Sylvia has been an activist and organizational leader for the advancement of immigrants’ rights in the United States for twenty eight years. She designed and co-chaired the “No Human Being Is Illegal” national campaign in the mid-1980s.  

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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