Some Latino Democrats, saying they are fed up with President Barack Obama’s broken promises on immigration reform, are threatening to sit out the midterm elections and claim there will be backlash at the ballot box come November.
“Maybe only by paying a price at the polls will Democrats finally stop throwing us under the bus,” Carmen Velasquez, founder and retired executive director of Alivio Medical Center in Chicago, wrote in Politico Magazine.
Immigration activists are voicing their anger on social media and in the press about Pres. Obama abandoning his pledge to act on immigration by the end of summer, instead delaying any executive action on immigration until after the November elections.
They say Latinos are being taken for granted by the president and the Democratic Party in general.
Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions and a political science professor at the University of Washington, believes that Obama’s broken promise can end up hurting Democrats in the midterm election.
"The White House raised hopes in the Latino community that they would take action before the midterm election, and now that they are delaying the decision, polling data suggests Latino voters will be less enthusiastic about turning out to vote in November,” Barreto said to Fox News Latino.
But views are mixed about whether Pres. Obama's decision will have a significant impact on the elections. Some point out that many of the most significant races are in states where Latinos are too small a part of the electorate.
Two White House officials said Obama concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul.
A deep sense of betrayal from both parties would be enough to leave Latinos even less politically engaged in the future.
- Allort Brown-Gort, professor, University of Notre Dame
Obama's explanation for his decision to delay — that a summer surge in Central American children crossing into the U.S. illegally had poisoned the atmosphere for immediate action — did little to quell speculation that Obama had actually yielded to midterm politics.
After all, nervous red-state Democrats had been complaining throughout the summer that voters would punish them if Obama took provocative, unilateral executive action now, such as deferring deportation for millions of immigrants.
"Our coalition is outraged by President Obama's continued lies and betrayal of the hard working, contributing immigrants who are the fabric of this country,” said Sonia Marquez, North Region Organizer for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Action Fund. “He has dragged us along for far too long with his false hopes and false promises.”
On Tuesday, members of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) plan to unleash their frustration to hold a rally outside U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office, “to express the anger and disappointment in the President’s decisions and the role of Senate Democrats in asking Obama to delay executive action for political reasons.”
Some members of Congress wanted Obama to hold off on making unilateral moves on immigration until after the November midterm elections, out of fear that it would hurt Democratic candidates who are facing tough races.
“The president’s willingness to cast the immigrant community aside, yet again, for political reasons has caused deep disappointment across the immigrant rights movement and among the millions of Latino, API and immigrant families who are impacted,” a press release by CIRC read.
Although Pres. Obama and many Democrats in Congress have blamed Republicans – particularly those in the House of Representatives – for repeated failures to pass comprehensive immigration reform, critics say that the president and Democrats are also at fault.
“The lack of leadership on this issue from him and Colorado Senators [Mark] Udall and Bennet has not gone unnoticed,” Marquez said. “President Obama and Senate Democrats will continue to be held accountable until they deliver what has been promised and is long overdue."
Obama’s 2012 immigration initiative, in which the administration suspended deportation for immigrants who had been brought to the United States as minors and met other criteria, helped win back the support of many Latinos who had grown angry over what they perceived to be weak attempts on the president’s part to push for immigration reform.
“In 2012, the DACA [initiative] really mobilized and galvanized the Latino vote, resulting in record high turnout,” Barreto said, referring to the presidential election that November, when nearly three-quarters of Latino voters cast their ballots for Obama. “We had anticipated the same effect in 2014. However, that now appears to be off the table."
Other political experts, however, think that when all is said and done, the anger and exasperation of the moment will fade if the president, as promised, does take some significant steps, including paving the way for perhaps millions of undocumented immigrants to legalize their status – as long as they meet a strict set of criteria.
Allert Brown-Gort, a professor at the University of Notre Dame and former associate director for the university’s Institute for Latino Studies, said that usually at this point in a presidency, half-way into a second term, the preoccupation “is certainly around legacy.”
If the president is truly intent on having immigration reform be part of his legacy, Brown-Gort told FNL, then his plan in delaying executive action – which Republicans in Congress vehemently oppose – until after the election could help Obama achieve that.
“He has two potential wins,” Brown-Gort said. “He might be able to hang on to a Senate majority, albeit a tiny one, while still assuring a legacy on immigration once he acts."
He added, “If he does act, history suggests that—much like 2012—action will wipe out all the bad memories and doubts that Latino voters might have had before.”
And if Obama once again fails to deliver on his promise?
“All the unmet promises that ‘I am with you’ would begin to cause a real rift that would harm his legacy,” Brown-Gort told FNL.
And it could alienate many Latinos from voting altogether.
“While Latinos have been leaving the Republican Party in droves, the re-concentration in the Democratic party has yet to solidify,” he said. “A deep sense of betrayal from both parties would be enough to leave Latinos even less politically engaged in the future. This would be a senseless loss for Democrats, since they need Latinos in order to win the demographic bet.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.