The clock is counting down, not just to a New Year, but to one of the most exciting Presidential elections which may be determined by Latinos. We decided to look back at the most important issues, policies, and political stories of 2011 that may influence for whom voters cast their ballots in 2012.
1. Latinos, A LOT of them: Mainly released in 2011, the results of the 2010 U.S. Census confirmed the Hispanic population grew 43 percent in the past decade to 50.5 million, making up more 23% of the general population younger than 18.
2. Arizona chanclazos: In November, voters recalled State Senator Russell Pearce (R), the architect of the S.B. 1070 restrictive immigration law, with U.S. Supreme Court deciding in December to rule if it is constitutional. A three-year Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation determined that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio abused his power by encouraging his department to unfairly profile and incarcerate Latinos, regardless of their immigration status.
3. Sweet Home Alabama (or Georgia or South Carolina)? These southern states passed and began enforcing tough immigration laws with Alabama’s the harshest in the nation. With crops left rotting in the fields and foreign companies considering closing up shop, the negative impact to their bottom lines is still being quantified.
4. Secure Communities U-Turn: Because of intense community backlash, the Obama Administration was forced to dial the Secure Communities (SCOMM) program way back, stopping federal and local police from processing “minor” offenders and indefinitely delaying deportation proceedings of non-violent illegal immigrants. Critics say the program, which requires local law enforcement to share fingerprints of detained undocumented immigrants with the feds to better identify and deport violent felons, ensnared others, divided families, and caused victims to not report crimes out of fear of deportation.
5. Destino White House: President Barack Obama who is up for re-election, leads all of his GOP challengers by a margin of two-to-one according to the latest Univision/Latino Decisions Poll, with Hispanics turned off by the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the Republican party on display during the GOP presidential candidates debates...
6. ...Alligator-infested moats, double-sided border-long fences, have a heart (or not), are all immigration positions Herman Cain (who has dropped out), Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney expressed respectively. The resurgence of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was surprising, in part because he expressed compassion toward illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for decades and have U.S. citizen family members.
7. “It’s the Economía, Stupid”: Some polls suggest immigration is the most important issue for Latino voters. Others say it’s the economy, particularly because the recession disproportionately hit Hispanics hard with higher rates of foreclosures, unemployment, and loss of wealth. Truth is these voters care deeply about both issues (and others like education and health care), making them a more complex voting block than generally thought.
8. Got Job? While the national unemployment rate peaked in June at 9.2%, among Latinos, it’s higher at 11.4%. The fall out: in 2010, 6.1 million Latino children lived in poverty--more than any other racial or ethnic group; and Hispanic household wealth fell 66%, from $18,359 in 2005 to $6,235 in 2009.
9. Threat of Shutdown Showdowns: Tea Party Republicans in Congress nearly prompted a government shutdown over the national debt ceiling that resulted in a downgrade to the country’s AAA credit rating, sinking global stocks. Later showdowns over a deficit-reduction deal and a failure to pass a payroll tax cut extension threaten to cut services and raise taxes for millions.
10. #OccupyWallSt began in September in a New York City park and spread to communities throughout the country and world. Their slogan “We are the 99%” refers to victims of the weak economy--those laid off or in foreclosure--in comparison to the “1%”--wealthy corporations, specifically executives and banks, that received tax payer funded bail outs. Although, the leaderless, youth-driven movement is being dismantled, it has made growing income inequality a political issue.
11. Osama bin Laden is Killed: Navy SEALs hunted down and assassinated Osama bin Laden, the diabolical mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania and began the trillion dollar Afghanistan and Iraq wars. As U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December, hundreds of thousands of civilians and military died in these conflicts, including nearly 4,500 American soldiers according to the Associated Press.