Friday, November 9, 2012

Hispanic voters helped push Obama to victory

A historic turnout by Hispanic voters helped fuel President Obama’s triumph in Tuesday’s election, with exit polls showing a growing share of Latinos casting ballots in a contest that has set off Republican soul-searching and left many Hispanic voters with a greater sense of political voice.

National exit polls showed that 10 percent of the electorate was Hispanic, compared with 9 percent in 2008 and 8 percent in 2004. Those numbers take on more significance when combined with results: Across the nation, 71 percent of Latinos voted for Obama, compared with 27 percent who chose Mitt Romney.

Broad outreach efforts to Latinos helped re-elect President Obama by a 3-to-1 margin, making the he growing power of the Hispanic vote clear in crucial swing states.

“This is a defining moment for the Republican Party,” said GOP strategist Leslie Sanchez. “If Republicans don’t heed this warning, we are certainly in danger of becoming politically irrelevant at a national level.”

Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions, a nonpartisan polling and research firm, said that in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, “Latino voters by themselves provided Obama with the margin of victory.” He also said the 2012 election shows that in key states — such as Ohio and Florida — a strong showing from Latinos and African Americans “in tandem” was a difference maker.

The Republican Party, he said, “will be doomed if they lose black and Latino votes by these same margins in the future.”

In many battleground states that were a key to winning the election, efforts to get Latinos registered and to the polls appear to have provided an edge for Obama.

The president himself was keenly aware of the importance of the Latino voting bloc before the election. “Should I win a second term,” Obama told the Des Moines Register last month, “a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”

The Hispanic vote undoubtedly helped Obama in Florida, where the Puerto Rican population in particular has boomed in recent years in the central part of the state, and where the president held a slight lead Wednesday as officials continued tallying votes.

Many of the new residents in places such as Osceola County — just south of Orlando — are Republicans who twice helped elect Jeb Bush as governor. But the area also went for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Perhaps most important, unlike many other Hispanic groups, Puerto Ricans are American citizens. They have no say in presidential elections back on the island, but in Florida, they are changing the electoral map.

“Here, we get to vote for president, and it matters. We have a voice,” chef Jesus Chevres, 53, said in his native Spanish on Wednesday, while preparing fried plantains and roast pork for the lunchtime crowd at the Broadway Restaurant in downtown Kissimmee.

The increase in Hispanic voting is a reflection of demographic changes, experts said, as non-
Hispanic whites account for a smaller share of the overall population. Exit polls showed 72 percent of voters were non-Hispanic whites, the lowest percentage since 1972.


Politically correct bullies don't like ‘illegal immigrant'

Ruben Navarrette

There is a campaign under way to shame media companies into abandoning the term “illegal immigrant” and replacing it with kinder and gentler euphemisms such as “undocumented worker.”

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists — which I've been a member of for two decades and which has rarely stuck its neck out to defend Hispanic journalists, let alone immigrants — has even gone so far as to suggest that the phrase causes hate crimes.

The crusade against the “I-word” began in September when, at an online journalism conference, freelance journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas put media companies on notice. He said they would be monitored and when they used “illegal immigrant” — which he claims “dehumanizes” people — the infraction would be duly recorded.

Vargas, who was born in the Philippines and last year revealed his status as an illegal immigrant (he prefers “American without papers”), identified the Associated Press and the New York Times as “two main targets.” Both institutions have since defended the term and continue to use it.

Let's hear it for common sense. Media companies — and the journalists who work for them — need to stand up to these pressure tactics and continue to use the term. Here are some reasons why:

The wording is accurate. When you enter the United States without permission or overstay a visa, you break a law. Vargas notes that “being in a country without proper documents is a civil offense, not a criminal one.” True. But the word “illegal” simply means against the law.

The proposed change is, for the most part, about being politically correct. And this is not a good spot from which to practice journalism. My profession isn't about making folks comfortable. That's public relations.

The word police simply want to sanitize the debate so that immigration reformers don't get their hands dirty by condoning illegal activity. One way to sanitize is to minimize the offense. The idea is to advance the argument that illegal immigration isn't really a crime, just an example of desperate people chasing opportunity to survive.

Many of those concerns about “illegal” can be addressed if we agree not to use it as a noun (i.e., “the illegals”) and if we refrain from using the much more offensive term “illegal alien.”

The charge that the term “dehumanizes” people is ridiculous. It describes an action as much as it does a person. An illegal immigrant is someone who immigrates illegally.

This debate distracts from the real issues — the need for comprehensive immigration reform, walls of separation between immigration agents and local police amd an end to do-it-yourself state immigration laws.

The issue alienates supporters of comprehensive immigration reform and other right-minded people who think we should have a more fair, more honest, and more humane way of dealing with illegal immigrants but who also feel uneasy about scrubbing the language.

This is a squabble among elites. Ask an illegal immigrant if he cares what he's called or whether he is more preoccupied with his struggle to provide for his family, avoid deportation and ensure that his children get legalized, and you'll see that changing the language of the debate doesn't even register.

Finally, the crusade highlights the hypocrisy of liberal Democrats who like to think of themselves as progressives because they eschew a term such as “illegal” but then turn around and support a Democratic president who has racked up record numbers of deportations.

This discussion is a waste of time. It's also a reminder that those of us who support comprehensive immigration reform need to get our story straight.

We have long argued that illegal immigrants should have the opportunity, via earned legalization, to make amends for wrongdoing. Is the new argument that those immigrants needn't bother because they did nothing wrong?


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