The day after President Obama won the presidential election was bad for me. The previous night, when I was certain he had won, I opened a bottle of champagne. Hopeful drinking followed by the reality of a nauseous head ache. In 2008, 67 percent of Latino voters cast ballots for Obama. Has our bubbly enthusiasm for his presidency been rewarded or are we suffering the ill effects of too much premature rejoicing? Consider highlights of the “big four.”
Obama promised to present a comprehensive immigration reform bill to Congress within the first year of his presidency. He has neither presented a bill of his own, nor endorsed any other immigration bill. In fact, during his administration, more people have been deported yearly than during any single year of Bush’s presidency.
Secure Communities is part of Obama’s immigration enforcement strategy. By 2013, the administration plans to extend the program nationwide. It is a controversial strategy that has drawn criticism from immigration activists as well as from local and state officials. Administrators defend the program by stating its success: the program is responsible for an 89 percent increase in the deportation of criminals since Obama took office.
The passage of the 2010 Health Care & Education Reconciliation Act was important to Latinos in that it made more aid available for low income students to attend college. In addition, over two billion dollars was allocated for institutions that service primarily Latino, African American and Native American students.
Obama continues to pledge support for the passage of a federal Dream Act. However, as of now, the Dream Act is still a dream for those students who would benefit from it.
Latinos have not fared well during the current economic climate. Latino unemployment stands at 11.3 percent, higher than the national average. Latinos have lost household wealth during the recession in greater proportion to the rest of the U.S. population and the number of impoverished Latino children stands at 6.1 million.
In 2008, 34 percent of Latinos lacked health insurance in the U.S. Obama was quick to point out that his overhaul of the health care system would benefit those who have been without health care until now. One criticism leveled at the overhaul, is that elderly Latinos will be victimized by the cuts to Medicare that are a provision of the overhaul legislation.
It is important to bear in mind that Obama has been contending with an obstructionist Congress that has stymied many of his projects. He has been quick to point out to those who question his effectiveness that he cannot implement and carry out his initiatives in a unilateral fashion or outside of the rule of law. The state of the economy in particular may well be the determining factor in a possible re-election. If voters feel that, despite his intentions, he will not be able to accomplish his goals in a second term, he may lose the support of the Latino vote that helped sweep him to office just a few years ago.
Photo by Public Domain.