Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

Will Latinos decide America’s elections?

Bernd Debusmann
Apr 7, 2012 13:45 UTC

Every day, around 1,600 U.S. citizens of Latin American extraction are turning 18, voting age, and add to the fastest-growing segment of the American electorate. Almost 22 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in November and how many of them turn out may well decide who will be the next U.S. president.

A series of recent polls show that Latinos favor President Barack Obama over any of the Republican presidential hopefuls, with a comfortable 70 percent to 14 percent over Mitt Romney, the man most likely to win the Republican nomination at the end of a primary campaign marked by often shrill anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Obama is so confident that he primary debates have driven Latinos away from the Republican party that  he told the Spanish-language television network Univision last November there was no need for his campaign to run negative ads on the Republican presidential hopefuls. Instead, “we may just run clips of the Republican debates verbatim. We won’t even comment on them…and people can make up their own minds.”

Among debate highlights that stick in the collective memory was the electrified Mexican-U.S. border fence suggested by Herman Cain, who soon after dropped out of the race, and Mitt Romney’s idea that illegal immigrants would chose “self-deportation…because they can’t find work here, because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.” Newt Gingrich, who is still in the primary contest but whose star is fading, described self-deportation as a fantasy.

The president’s confidence of winning Latino support again – he took 67 percent of their vote in 2008 — is partly based on history: Republicans have lost the Latino vote in every presidential election since 1972. But it would be a mistake for Obama to take that support for granted, not least because he broke an election campaign promise to produce a bill on immigration reform in his first year in office.

The U.S. border and immigration reform

Bernd Debusmann
Oct 21, 2011 14:30 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Take your pick. Cities and towns on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico are among the safest in the country. Or: Mexican drug gangs have turned the longest stretch of the 2,000-mile border, the line between Texas and Mexico, into a war zone.

The first version is President Barack Obama’s. He has crime statistics on his side. The second comes from an alarmist 182-page report by two retired generals, including former drug czar Barry McCaffrey. Among their assertions: “Living and conducting business in a Texas border county is tantamount to living in a war zone in which civil authorities, law enforcement agencies as well as citizens are under attack around the clock.”

(True enough for large parts of Mexican territory south of the border, where more than 42,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on drug mafias five years ago.)

Obama, immigration and “anchor babies”

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 31, 2011 16:59 UTC

After breaking a promise to tackle immigration reform in his first year in office, President Barack Obama now thinks the time has come to deal with the thorny issue “once and for all.” It’s a safe bet that he will fail to repair America’s broken immigration system. Why? George W. Bush helps explain.

The immigration reform Bush championed would have provided tighter control over the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, a new visa system for temporary workers, and a path to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country. The bill failed in 2007 after running into stiff opposition from congressional leaders of his own Republican party.

In his memoir, Decision Points, he says the debate over the reform had been affected by “a blend of isolationism, protectionism and nativism,” apocalyptic warnings of a “third world invasion and conquest of America” by TV radio hosts and commentators and last but not least the influence of ideological extremes in Congress.

Sarah Palin, big political lies and the U.S. immigration debate

Bernd Debusmann
Jul 23, 2010 13:55 UTC

The prize for the biggest political lie of 2009 went to Sarah Palin, the darling of the American right, for injecting fictitious “death panels” into the health reform debate. This year, fact-benders are hard at work to control the debate on another controversial topic, immigration. Competition is intense.

It comes from opponents of immigration reforms that would  simultaneously offer better control of the 2,000-mile U.S-Mexico border, a new visa system, and a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, the majority Mexicans, who are already in the country. The official term for this is “comprehensive immigration reform.”

But influential politicians insist there must be no reform before the border is entry-proof to illegals, and they portray the frontier as a virtual war zone, on both sides of the line.

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