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Oaxacans Worry About Candidates' Interest in Immigration Reform

Impulso, News Report, Nora Estrada Posted: Aug 23, 2008

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Editor's Note: Many Latino voters are worried because neither Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama nor Republican presidential candidate Johm McCain have in recent weeks offered any substantive talk on immigration, a subject that is on the minds of Latinos. This article is part of a New America Media project sponsored by the Ford Foundation to increase the online presence of ethnic media.

LOS ANGELES Latinos will no doubt play a key role in choosing the next president, with more than 10 million expected to vote at the national level the highest total in U.S. history. Thats enough to make Latinos a key swing constituency, with the ability to make the difference in several crucial battle-ground states in the race between Republican nominee John McCain and Barack Obama, his Democratic foe.

Yet neither candidate has spoken clearly on immigration reform, a prime subject in the minds of many Latino voters. The lack of any substantive talk about immigration has been noticed in the community of immigrants from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, a significant subset of the Latino population in the United States.

Talk to Oaxacans in Los Angeles a major population center for the U.S. community and many will tell you that all the noise and attention that accompanied the giant protests against severe new rules on immigration two years ago have yielded nothing new. The U.S. Congress has buried the issue, many say, leaving more than 12 million undocumented individuals with little hope of gaining a path to citizenship and fearful of federal crackdowns that have resulted in many sudden deportations in recent months.

Ignacio Cano, a native of Macuiltianguis in Oaxaca who is now a U.S. citizen and eligible to vote in this years presidential election, says the immigration issue will make the difference in how he casts his ballot. Cano also indicates that any perceived weakness the Obama campaign showed in the primary elections, when Hillary Clinton ran stronger among Latinos, wont be a worry in the general election.

What really attracts me to the campaigns is the subject of immigration and how is it going to be remedied, Cano says. I believe that both candidates state that they are going to push for immigration reform, but I believe that, with Obama, we the Latinos will have more access and will be able to push for an immigration reform.

Cano is one of the thousands of Latinos who were motivated to become U.S. citizens by one of the various campaigns conducted by a wide range of organizations, among them the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Hispanic Federation. These groups and others proved effective, helping hundreds of thousands of Latinos complete the citizenship process, and hundreds of thousands others who were already citizens register to vote for the first time.

Bertha Rodriguez is a native of Matas Romero, Oaxaca, and a community activist in Los Angeles. She is still waiting for something solid on immigration from the candidates. The lack of debate since Obama and McCain became their parties presumptive nominees has left her analyzing past statements, searching for hope.

I believe that the candidates do not want to commit themselves on the subject of immigration, but at a certain moment I believe that Obama will be more inclined to include the immigrant community, Rodriguez says. He has left open the possibility of immigrant organizations making a coalition to push negotiations.

Rodriguez gives little credit to McCain for his leadership in the U.S. Senate because of a failed move to push for immigration reform back in 2007. Instead, it seems that McCains more recent talk about the primary importance of securing the border, a position thats popular with many Republican voters, has replaced his earlier effort in the mind of Rodriguez.

The votes that are represented within the Latin community are important for both candidates, and obviously McCain is interested in that, but his position on the subject has been anti-immigrant, and this is a disadvantage, Rodriguez says. And while Obama has yet to connect on the issue, Rodriguez says he has spent at least some time with the community through workshops and preparing people so that they become more involved.

Ken Louria, of the Agency Programs Portrait Victims, says hed like to hear more from Obama about immigration but he also wants more specifics from the Democrat on a number of other issues, everything from healthcare, the war in Iraq, and the current economic downturn.

I have many problems with the campaigns, says Louria, who expresses appreciation for McCains focus on how immigrants affect the labor market.

I like the McCain campaign more because he worries about the immigrants who come from Mexico, and wants to give them the right to work here and insurance, he says.


Related Articles:

Latinos Can Trust Obama

Obama Cant Afford to Neglect Latin America

Pat Nixon at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Drop in Remittances Sparks Debate Between Mexico and Its Migrants





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