Obama: Immigration Reform Coming

Arizona Dream Act Coalition staff members, who advocate for young immigrants. Photograph by Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo

When’s the last time Telemundo got a question near the top of a presidential news conference?

What was the Hispanic vote for president on Nov. 6?

President Barack Obama 71 percent, Republican Mitt Romney 27 percent.

Immigration reform, the president told his Telemundo questioner at a White House news conference today, is on the way.

“My expectation is that we get a bill introduced, and we some progress in Congress very soon after my inauguration,”Obama said — that bill being a “comprehensive immigration reform,” with tougher border control, sanctions for companies that hire undocumented immigrants and “a pathway for legal status” for those obeying the laws as well as protection for so-called “Dream Act” children born of those here illegally.

The outcome of the presidential election is likely to provide some impetus for that legislation, which former President George W. Bush was unable to obtain during his second term. Congressional Republicans are watching a key and growing constituency gravitate to Democrats.

At 27 percent, Romney’s Hispanic vote was smaller than Bush’s  in 2004 — then  44 percent for the former Texas governor — and Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 31 percent in 2008 (and he was one of the sponsors of that failed Bush-era immigration reform), according to exit polls.

The low water mark for the party came in 1996, when Republican Bob Dole garnered only 21 percent of the Hispanic vote. Democratic President Bill Clinton achieved the high mark, at 72 percent.

Latinos accounted for 9 percent of the electorate in 2008, with 19.5 million eligible to vote.  Now, nearly 24 million Hispanics are eligible to vote, with the number of registered Latinos  increasing by 26 percent in the last four years to 12.2 million, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

“I think what was incredibly encouraging was to see a significant increase in Latino turnout,” Obama said today. “This is the fastest-growing group in the country and, you know, historically what you’ve seen is Latino vote — vote at lower rates than the broader population. And that’s beginning to change.

“You’re starting to see a sense of empowerment and civic participation that I think is going to be powerful and good for the country,” the president said. “And it is why I’m very confident that we can get immigration reform done.”

 

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