Swing-state Latinos rally to Obama after immigration announcement

Latino voters have responded with enthusiasm to President Obama’s decision Friday to limit deportation proceedings against and extend green card eligibility to roughly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants. But the head of a conservative Latino group in Colorado cautioned that the administration’s track record on immigration demands at best only a cautious optimism.

Steven Rodriguez, Colorado vice president of national advocacy organization Somos Republicans, told the Independent that his group has come to look on Obama administration moves with skepticism and was adopting a “wait and see approach” to the recent policy change.

“We would like to applaud President Obama for his positive move forward in addressing one of many interrelated components of our dysfunctional immigration system. Time will only tell if this is but another failed promise to the Hispanic community, or another politically motivated action,” he wrote in an email.

Rodriguez said administration plans announced a year ago to grant Homeland Security prosecutorial discretion that would effectively limit deportations to the “worst of the worst” illegal immigrants was a failure. He noted that deportations increased unimpeded with little change in approach.

“[T]o date only 1 percent of all deportation cases are decided by prosecutorial discretion,” Rodriguez wrote. “Simply put, [the Obama plan from 2011] has never been implemented and is ineffective. By regulation, it will take 60 days to implement the current action. We will take a wait and see approach as to whether this was just another election-year promise.”

On Friday, Obama announced he was using Homeland Security policy to address concerns taken up by the DREAM Act, which has been shelved by gridlocked lawmakers on Capitol Hill for years. The act aims to provide a path to citizenship for “Dreamers” or young people brought to the United States as children, who have graduated from U.S. high schools and have no criminal record. Many serve in the U.S. military.

“We at Somos applaud the work of Dreamers across the country and of those who have advocated on their behalf,” Rodriguez wrote.

Polling this weekend conducted by Latino Decisions working with progressive advocacy group America’s Voice in swing states Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia found that Obama’s Friday announcement had effectively erased an “enthusiasm gap” for the president that had grown up among frustrated Latino voters.

Nearly 50 percent of likely voters polled said the move increased their enthusiasm for Obama. Roughly 15 percent said the move made them less enthusiastic about him. Earlier this year, a 19 percent majority of the same voting demographic reported being less enthusiastic about the president.

The likely voters surveyed strongly opposed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s plan to limit economic opportunities for illegal immigrants and establish Arizona-style stiff enforcement laws that would drive undocumented immigrants to “self deport.”

[ Image via BarackObama‘s Flickr stream. ]

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