Election 2012: Is the Deportation Announcement a Game Changer?

Latinos’ enthusiasm and energy after President Obama announced young student or military illegal immigrants would not be deported could have powered a small city for a month. Now the devil is in the details: how is the policy going to be rolled out? What guidance will be given to those charged with executing the President’s vision such as law enforcement and government lawyers? What if Governor Mitt Romney beats President Obama – will those who come forward be thrown out of the country or left to languish for months in immigration clinks? Skepticism is being cast, including by me. I’ve covered politics long enough to notice a Presidential switcheroo – one year ago President Obama insisted he must enforce the laws on the books. Months before the election, he is exercising his executive authority to halt the deportations of DREAMers after intense pressure from the Latino community. There is also enough time for the Administration to drop the ball, as they have with the backlog of non-violent immigrants whose deportations were supposed to be paused beginning last fall. Of the 411,000 cases, only two percent have been reviewed.

Still, the political “San Andreas Fault” has shifted. Evidence: yesterday, Washington must-read Politico’s homepage featured a good amount of coverage devoted to how the Obama and Romney campaigns are duking it out to lock in Latino voters, as well as issues impacting Hispanics – including the hot button issue of immigration. We are the hot topic, not just because of how much we spend ($1 trillion dollar buying power) or how many babies we have (big demographic boom). I heard a household name Washington, DC network correspondent say at the end of last summer that the Latino vote won’t matter because immigration wasn’t going to be touched with a 10-foot pole. And now, here we are. 

A perfect demographic and political storm is gathering this week in Florida during the National Association of Latino Elected Leaders (NALEO) convention. The headliners are President Obama and Mitt Romney. Romney is expected to address immigration. I have an idea what our President will say, but Romney? Not so much. 

And guess what? That’s okay if as a voting bloc, we stay informed, engaged with the issues and involved in the political process at every level. Why do people listen, bend over backwards to court our viejito voters, women, and independents? Because they show up for Presidential election, the mid-term elections, and neighborhood traffic committee meetings. This steady participation pressures leaders and parties to listen to the people who have the power to vote them in, keep, or toss them out of office. 

Latinos?  Sometimes yes.  Often times no – what the The New York Times called “entrenched non-participation.” Ouch. That truth hurts.

An announcement doesn’t change the game.  It shifts a news cycle which has the attention span of a tweet.  We change it – no matter your politics—by making the consistent, long-term investments of civic involvement for our good, for that of our families, communities, and ultimately our country.

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Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.