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Could Latino Voters Tip the Scales Toward Dems in November?

President Obama won the 2008 presidential election with help from Latino voters, who voted for him over John McCain by a more than two-to-one margin. Some of this support has lagged as Obama has so far failed to deliver on a campaign promise to pass immigration reform. But immigrant rights advocates claim recent events have reignited Latino voters’ support for Obama and other Democrats who they think will be more likely to deliver comprehensive immigration reform in the future — and pushed them away from Republicans who oppose reform efforts.

“Our concern is those individuals who are using illegal immigrants to attack the entire Latino community,” Ben Monterroso of the Mi Familia Vota Civic Engagement Campaign said on a conference call today. “It’s not enough to say you like and respect Latinos if you’re not going to do anything for the community as a whole.”

The organization is working with Latino groups around the country to register and mobilize voters — supposedly a nonpartisan effort, although highly critical of Republican politicians who have spoken out against immigration reform or in support of harsh enforcement. Latino voters support immigration reform in large measures, and Republicans are unlikely to deliver it. The Republican “Pledge to America,” purportedly a breakdown of the party’s legislative priorities, notably glosses over immigration reform in favor of increasing enforcement.

Reform advocates said their mobilization effort will encourage Latino voters to turn out in large numbers to vote for candidates who will enact Latino-friendly legislation.

Another major selling point for Latinos is the DREAM Act, which would allow some undocumented students and members of the military to gain legal status if they entered the country as children. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempted to insert the act into this year’s defense authorization bill, but the bill was filibustered by Republicans. (The bill also contained a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” another highly contested measure.)

This was upsetting to Latino voters, who overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act. About 72 percent of Latinos believe the act should have been passed as part of the defense bill, Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions said on the call. Advocacy groups purchased Spanish-language ads last week arguing Republicans do not support the DREAM Act or other immigrants rights legislation.

Republicans have attempted to pin the failure of immigration reform on Democrats — a bold strategy, considering their actions on the DREAM Act and lack of support for comprehensive legislation proposals. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) criticized Obama last week for not making immigration a priority.

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