Thursday, December 29, 2011

Latinos loyal to Obama despite anger over president's immigration record

Research shows Latino voters continue to favour Obama over GOP candidates in spite of policy of deporting illegal immigrants

The Pew Hispanic Centre, in its annual survey of Latino attitudes, found 59% disapproved of the way the Obama administration is handling deportations. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP
More than two-thirds of Latinos in the US disapprove of the Obama administration's record of deporting illegal immigrants, according to a Pew report published on Wednesday.

In spite of this, Obama and the Democrats continue to enjoy the overwhelming support of Latinos ahead of next year's White House and Congressional elections.

The findings come as Obama, after months of low ratings among the general public, is ending the year with a bounce in approval polls.

The loyalty of the Latino vote could prove crucial for Obama's re-election chances. With support for Obama near monolithic among African Americans and low among white males, the Latinos may hold the balance.

Obama put at risk Latino loyalty by pursuing an aggressive policy of deportations, the number of which are much higher than under the Bush administration.

After a backlash from Latino communities, the Obama administration earlier this year said it had rowed back on deportations, though Latino advocacy groups have expressed scepticism over whether this is the case.

Deportations have averaged 400,000 a year since 2009, when Obama became president, about 30% higher than under the Bush administration in his second term and double that of Bush, who courted Latinos, in his first term.

The Pew Hispanic Centre, in its annual survey of Latino attitudes, found 59% disapproved of the way the Obama administration is handling deportations compared with 27% who approve.

Many Latinos remain unaware that deportations have risen under Obama. Among those that do, the disapproval rate jumps to 77%. Bush attempted to win over Latinos to the Republican party, as did the 2008 presidential candidate John McCain. Bush and McCain backed proposals to reform immigration policy that would have provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but had to back down in the face of widespread hostility from Republicans in Congress and grassroots GOP members.

The rhetoric from the present Republican field, which largely hostile towards illegal immigrants with the exception of Newt Gingrich and, to a lesser extent, Rick Perry, has consolidated traditional Latino support for the Democrats.

The survey found that among registered Latino voters Obama enjoys the support of 68%, against 23% for Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner in the White House race. The ratio is almost identical if Obama were to face Perry.

Against McCain, Obama won 67% of the Latino vote against 31% for McCain.

Among Latinos who disapprove of Obama's handling of the deportations, his support drops to 57% to 34% against Romney, and 61% to 31% against Perry.

That drop is a warning for Obama. The Republicans do not have to secure a majority of the Latinos to win; they just need to make a significant inroad into the Democratic majority in swing states.

One option discussed among Republicans to win over Latinos is to appoint Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida who is of Cuban descent, as a vice-presidential running mate. But 54% of those surveyed said they had never heard of Rubio, or were unable to rate him. Rubio, one of the rising stars of the Republican party, has said he would not accept the vice-presidential job, insisting he is too young and that he needs to spend more time in the Senate.

The survey, carried out between 9 November and 7 December across the US, questioned 1,220 Latinos, of whom 557 said they were registered voters.

Obama's job approval ratings have, in line with polls of the general population, dropped among Latinos, from 58% in 2010 to 49%, according to the survey.

The survey was taken too early to reflect a general rise in Obama's approval ratings in recent weeks. The rise could be a result of public unhappiness with the Republican field or, more likely, tentative signs of improvement in the economy, the exit from Iraq or Obama's successful stand-off with Republicans in Congress last week over the payroll tax.

A Gallup poll showed his approval rating up to 46%, his highest since July. He stood at 41% at the start of December.


Georgia Counties Enforce Immigration Law

Georgia cities and counties are preparing to comply with the state’s new immigration law, known as HB 87. That will mean proving, among other things, they aren’t issuing contracts to companies that employ illegal immigrants. Some of the law’s provisions go into effect this weekend.

The law will require firms bidding for public contracts to submit affidavits that their employees are authorized to work here.

Starting in January, many companies will begin using the federal E-Verify database to vet employees’ immigration status.

Todd Edwards is with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia. He says his group’s members also have to handle that part of the law.

“Like many of the other laws passed at the General Assembly, that primarily falls on your cities and counties to enforce," he said in an interview. "That’s because the mechanism by which companies were to sign up for a business license or an alcohol license at the local level, we’re in charge of checking that they have indeed used E-Verify, and we have to report that as well.”

Beginning in 2012, Georgia cities and counties will have to verify that every company receiving a business license or permit isn’t employing illegal immigrants. The municipalities will produce a report at the end of each year that identifies new license recipients and provides proof that they comply with the law.

The requirements are part of Georgia’s new immigration law.

Edwards says municipalities have spent months preparing for the procedures. But he says the law is still raising some administrative concerns:

“With the large counties, the sheer amount of benefits, the licenses, the permits issued," he said. "And for the small counties that don’t have the professional staffs, to have this along with all the other requirements coming from the state added to their work.”

An immigration enforcement board will review citizen complaints about how local governments are enforcing the law.


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