Victoria is Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a contributor to MSNBC and Telemundo. Her areas of expertise in the domestic policy landscape include immigration, Latinos, women and childcare, and economic equity. more→
Victoria brings an interdisciplinary lens to understanding policy development and its intersection with institutional and political contexts. Underlying her academic work is the applicability of rigorous research to on-the-ground policy realities.
José Díaz-Balart, chief political analyst for Telemundo, had one important task during the September 7, 2011, Republican debate—to ask the candidates about immigration. Díaz-Balart asked his question, got his answer and was dismissed from the stage. The stereotype was fulfilled; a Latino asked one question and the one question was about immigration. With that box checked, the moderators and candidates were able to return to “non-Latino” issues.
The problem is, the issues that keep Latinos up at night—like double-digit unemployment rates, living at the poverty end of the wealth gap and having the highest high school dropout rates in the country—go well beyond immigration. Herein lies the challenge for President Obama. He must recast his connection with Latino voters beyond a narrow focus on immigration and engage Latinos as the multi-issue electorate they are.
It’s easy to see why Latinos have been typecast within the narrow frame of immigration. The vast majority are immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants. In 2008 then-candidate Barack Obama used the issue to connect with Latinos by highlighting the importance of immigration reform. This strategy was wildly successful and netted him close to 70 percent of the Latino vote. Today that strategy is counterproductive. Latino voters are keenly aware that “La Promesa de Obama”—as his campaign pledge for comprehensive immigration reform became known—was not fulfilled. And now they have other priorities: according to the latest impreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking polls, economics have eclipsed immigration as their top concern. For Latinos, the economy and the related issue of education have come to demand the same level of attention that President Obama once gave immigration. (more…)