He’s been called “deporter-in-chief” because of the record number of immigrants, including Central American unaccompanied minors who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, who have been forcefully removed from the U.S. while he’s been president.
He’s come under criticism for failing to pass an immigration reform bill during his eight years in office.
Yet, President Barack Obama’s approval rating among Latinos is at one of its highest points ever in his tenure.
A new Fox News Latino poll of 803 Latino registered voters nationwide shows that 67 percent approve the job that Obama is doing as president.
That was more than twice the 28 percent who said they do not approve. About 6 percent said they are not sure.
More than half of those responding said that they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, compared to 44 percent who said they are not very satisfied, or not at all satisfied.
Another 2 percent said they were not sure.
The generally high marks by Latinos for Obama’s performance in the Oval Office comes even as the president has come under fire from many Latino leaders and immigrant groups for deporting a record number of people during his tenure, and the complaint among many that he did not push hard enough for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Immigration attorney Matthew Kolken said that Obama’s image among Latinos has benefited from the markedly hard line among some Republican leaders – and, now, particularly GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump – on the issue of immigration.
“Despite his abysmal human rights record he still appears pro-immigrant when compared to the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from Republicans,” Kolken said to Fox News Latino. “The other reason is that traditional media outlets have protected the President by declining to fully vet and fact check what he says about his immigration policies against what he is actually doing to devastate to immigrant communities.”
“The bottom line is that when it comes to immigrant rights the Obama presidency will be remembered as a stain on the history of this country.”
Other experts say the high marks for Obama reflect the fact that Latinos are not a singular-issue voting bloc. While they do monitor the tone with which political leaders address issues such as immigrants – who are made up largely of Latinos – they also care about education, healthcare, among other things. And these are areas, particularly the Affordable Care Act, in which the president has implemented policies and programs that Latinos strongly support and feel has been important for their community.
“I don't find it to be surprising,” said Louis DeSipio, a political scientist at University of California-Irvine, in reference to the high marks for Obama. “Latino registered voters are concerned about a range of issues – the economy, social services, respect for the Latino community, as well as immigration.”
“The policy focus of President Obama's administration has addressed a range of concerns of Latinos and, in these areas, they have generally approved of his actions,” DeSipio said. “This would include efforts to rebuild the economy after the Great Recession. Latino unemployment rates have dropped considerably. The Affordable Care Act has ensured that many previously uninsured U.S. citizen and permanent resident Latinos now have access to insurance and, depending on their incomes, federal subsidies to purchase health insurance.”
Beyond that, he said, Obama has placed Latinos in prominent positions in his administration, as well as spoken passionately about the importance of inclusion and respect for people of different races, ethnicities and sexual preference.
Michael Wildes, a prominent immigration attorney based in New York, said the results, given that they come from registered voters, perhaps are a “sad reflection of immigrants who care less about others left behind once having succeeded themselves. Most disappointing.”
Many have faulted Obama for his handling of enforcement, resulting in more than 2 million deportations since he became president, and his handling of the surge of Central Americans – including unaccompanied minors – who showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border since 2014. In January, immigration authorities conducted raids targeting Central Americans in several states – a move that was widely criticized by immigration advocacy groups, civil rights organizations and Democratic leaders such as Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.
At the same time, DeSipio noted, as Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked efforts to move on comprehensive immigration reform measures, Obama did take the controversial step of turning to executive orders to give relief from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants. Some of the orders, which mainly benefited undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors and consider this their true homeland, are held up in court because of a Texas-led lawsuit that Republican governors of several other states joined.
“While there is undoubtedly disappointment that comprehensive immigration reform didn't pass among many Latinos, they understand that the fault was not entirely on President Obama,” DeSipio said. “They also appreciate [the executive orders] and the effort, ultimately unsuccessful, to expand [them]” to benefit more people.