POLITICS
11:35 am
Mon November 19, 2012

Did the Latino Vote Foreshadow Immigration Reform?

  • WGBH Morning Edition Host Bob Seay asks Maria Hinojosa about the Latino vote and its post-election consequences.

Does Latino support for President Obama mean we're getting closer to immigration reform?
Credit Jens Schott Knudsen / Flickr Creative Commons

In this past election, 75 percent of Latino voters cast their ballot for President Obama. The level of support the Latino community showed on Election Day is unprecedented — Bill Clinton previously held the record for the most Latino support, with 72 percent of Latino voters casting their ballot for the incumbent president in 1996.

But now that Election Day has passed, will the Latino support for President Obama change the political dialog about immigration? Maria Hinojosa, host of NPR’s Latino USA, is hopeful that the energy Latino voters demonstrated will catalyze immigration reform.

“This is a Latino electorate that feels energized, they feel like they have taken part in the electoral conversation,” Hinojosa explains. “And the next part of that electoral conversation is about policy…Now it looks like immigration reform will be done, probably in the next year, 2013. That has changed a lot of people’s lives and it will have an impact on every single American because, more than likely, that means that they economy will have an uptick as a result.”

But the Latino voters who showed support for Obama won’t be satisfied by a stopgap compromise in immigration policy.  Hinojosa argues that Latino voters want real political progress. “They want a conversation that says — hey, Latino voters turned out for you at 75 percent. We expect more than just more than just a path to ‘legalization,’ we expect a path to citizenship,” she says.

Many Latino voters who supported Romney in this election are also hoping for immigration reform. As Lionel Sosa, a Republican advertising and marketing executive, says, “The question is: will the very, very right-wing portion of our party allow it to happen?  Can a candidate get nominated by taking a moderate position? I hope that is the case, because we need a more moderate position on immigration.”

But for the other 75 percent of the Latino community, Hinojosa argues, a “moderate position” on may not be enough to win back votes. “If you talk to Latinos right now,” she explains, “They’re saying that actually what they want from this president is not necessarily a moderate position — they want real movement.”