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Latinos Grow Frustrated With Immigration Inaction

Luis Gutierrez, a fairly good weathervane for the mood of Latino voters, tells The Hill that he wants an immigration bill or he would tell his community to sit out the midterm elections:

Some Democrats have felt little urgency in pursuing the controversial issue, partly because they see no risk that Hispanic voters will bolt the party for the GOP. But Gutierrez says they are missing the real political consequence of inaction.

“We can stay home,” Gutierrez said in an interview with The Hill. “We can say, ‘You know what? There is a third option: We can refuse to participate.’ ”

For Gutierrez, a former cab driver first elected to represent Chicago in 1992, the shift from close Obama ally to ornery critic has been stark. The lawmaker was one of the former Illinois senator’s earliest campaign supporters, and — as Gutierrez is quick to note — he stuck by Obama even as many Hispanic leaders rallied around Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

When Gutierrez talks about his old Chicago neighbor, he speaks of “anger, disillusionment, dissatisfaction” and “betrayal.” He says Obama has failed to keep his campaign commitment to immigration reform, and he decries what he calls an “enforcement-only” policy in which the administration has deported more undocumented immigrants than in the final year of the George W. Bush administration.

I know a lot of people are baffled by the intensity of the opposition from traditional allies of the White House. We see this in the LGBT community as well. I would remind those who fail to understand all this that the President didn’t have to make these kind of promises. He was extremely specific on these issues, and his failure to move on them at all – in fact, on the immigration front he has taken the nation backward by putting punitive restrictions on undocumented and even legal immigrants in the health care bill and continuing workplace raids at a higher rate than his predecessor – is bound to disappoint those with a large stake in them.

The White House wants to tell these people that they have nowhere else to go – one look at John McCain’s far-right border security plan and you know that Republicans aren’t going to capitalize on this discontent. But Republicans never made an immigration reform or an LGBT rights supporter a promise. It’s completely natural for there to be anger over the lack of movement, and no matter how much the President wants the critics to go away, they won’t. He could have been “realistic and pragmatic” during the campaign, since those are such virtuous traits, we’re always told, but he wasn’t. He gaves names and dates. And he has failed on those measures.

I predict more acts of civil disobedience and events designed to bring public pressure. We know that immigration reform supporters will march on May 1. If this upsets the President, that nominal supporters would threaten Democratic majorities, he shouldn’t have told them that they are the change they’ve been waiting for.

There’s video of Gutierrez’ interview here. It’s pretty powerful.

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David Dayen

David Dayen