Tuesday, October 05, 2010

S-Comm, Democrats, immigration policies and Latino voting

A very small crowd rallied outside the State Office Building today in San Francisco to protest Attorney General (and Governor-candidate) Jerry Brown's failure to help willing cities to opt out of the Secure Communities program. According to an email from organizers:

Secure Communities (S-Comm) is a federal program that automatically shares with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) all fingerprints taken by local police departments when anyone is arrested--no matter how minimal the charge and even when the individual is eventually found to be innocent.

S-Comm brings Arizona's SB1070 to every state in the U.S., putting people at risk for being deported for missing a stop sign or selling ice cream! S-Comm terrorizes the most vulnerable communities, including immigrant families, domestic violence victims, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. ICE's own data shows that 79 percent of people deported through this program are non-criminals or were picked-up for lower level offenses such as traffic violations.

San Francisco authorities want nothing to do with this program which is certain to drive a wedge between immigrant communities and necessary law enforcement. More here.

Today's rally seemed to draw largely from the rapidly organizing domestic workers in the area, including women from La Colectiva and Mujeres Unidas y Activas.
Today's effort to get the Democratic candidate for governor to take action for immigrant rights underlines questions about how such issues will play out for Democrats in the November elections.
  • It is a fact that Democratic majorities in Congress have not been able or willing to move any kind of immigration reform.
Will Latino voters, who gave Obama huge margins in 2008, vote Democratic this year despite these failing?

A recent Pew Hispanic Center report says that Latinos still look to Democrats as more attuned to their concerns by wide margins. It is full of fascinating tidbits.

Latinos like Obama personally, but are not so sure his administration has done well by them.

When it comes to opinions of President Barack Obama, a greater share of Latino registered voters approve of his job performance than do all U.S. registered voters -- 63 percent versus 47 percent. Yet when asked about the effect of his administration's policies on Hispanics, Latino registered voters are divided. More than half (51 percent) say his policies have had no effect on Latinos, while one-in-four (26 percent) say they have been helpful to Latinos and 13 percent say they have been harmful. ...

Significantly, for many Latino registered voters, immigration policy is not their first concern; education, jobs and health care rank much higher. That probably bodes well for Democrats getting their votes. Yet Pew found an interesting wrinkle: Latinos concerned about immigration are somewhat more likely to vote than those who were less so.

... the survey finds that two-thirds (66 percent) of Latino registered voters say they talked about the immigration policy debate with someone they know in the past year. It also finds that those who have had these conversations are more motivated to vote in the upcoming election than are those who haven't. Nearly six-in-ten (58 percent) Latino registered voters who have discussed the immigration debate say they are absolutely certain they will vote in November, compared with just four-in-ten (39 percent) of those who have not talked about the immigration debate.

Pew doesn't speculate about what is going on here, but I will, based on a couple of decades of watching California elections.

Latinos are less likely to vote than some other citizens because so many of them belong to demographic groups that are always unlikely to vote, especially in midterm elections. Many are younger, less well off, and less educated than the groups in the overall electorate that vote more heavily.

When Latinos do vote, they like to be hopeful about their choices, rather than engage in defense. After all, in this state anyway, they know they are a community on the way up, numerically and economically. Immigration policy may be a back burner issue to the hopeful concerns -- but it hangs there around the edge of public conversations, because it is about family. Just about everyone knows someone -- has an aunt or nephew -- whose immigration status is clouded.

As Pew found, Latinos who do vote will hold their noses and vote for the least-worst alternative who is most always a Democrat these days. Latinos aren't dumb; they know Republicans have embraced the nativist panic. Democrats should be doing everything they can to get out the Latino vote because they will get most of it. And they could get it more easily if they'd dare to make generous moves on immigration policy issues.

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