Feet in 2 World’s John Rudolph talked with Chung-Wha Hong of the New York Immigration Coalition and Mark Hugo Lopez of the Pew Hispanic Center about the political issues that most concern Latino voters — and it’s not just immigration.
The talk, which can be heard in the audio podcast below, is a preview to this Thursday’s (Oct. 18) town hall discussion titled “The Economy vs. Immigration: What will unlock the Latino vote in 2012?” at The New School. Below find some details from the talk, excerpted from a Feet in 2 Worlds article on the podcast.
Since the last presidential election, demographic changes in swing states — including Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia — have increased the share of eligible Latino voters, thereby increasing the potential that Hispanics will become a deciding vote. Lopez notes, however, that Latinos are made up of diverse groups, with voting trends that differ by state.
According to Hong, jobs and healthcare are important but “immigration remains a litmus test for whether a candidate cares about Latinos.” Meanwhile, Lopez points out that the economy has hit Latinos the hardest.
“If a candidate comes out opposing the DREAM Act, it’s not just a policy position,” she says. DREAMers represent the pride and joy of Latino and immigrant communities and if someone comes out against the DREAM Act, like Romney did, it has major repercussions. For this reason, Hong doesn’t expect Romney to get the 40 percent support among Latinos that George W. Bush got.
According to Lopez, the economic downturn has had major ramifications for Latino communities: Right now more Latino children live in poverty than any other group — a first for Latinos. More wealth was lost in the recession by Latinos than any other group. And while there has been improvement in Latino unemployment, it is still two points above the national average of 7.8 percent.
While a majority of Latinos would vote for Obama, the question lingers in the weeks before Election Day: How many will come out and vote? Healthcare could be that extra push that gets many Latinos out the door and into voting booths.
Hong thinks health care tends to be overlooked when discussing issues Latinos care about. Obama’s health care reform, when implemented, will see an 18 percent increase in the number of Latinos covered. Many Latinos work in places where employers don’t offer healthcare and, Hong believes, Romney’s pledge to repeal Obamacare will lose him support.
The New School will host “The Economy vs. Immigration: What will unlock the Latino vote in 2012?,” on Thursday, Oct. 18, at 6 p.m.
Oct. 23 update: Feet in 2 Worlds has posted video from the town hall event.