Sunday, 14 July 2024 18:03

Immigration Activists Won’t 'Coronate' Hillary Clinton As Their Candidate

Thursday, 09 April 2015

April 9, 2015 Immigration activists made two things clear when they signed a petition asking Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run for president: They want a contested primary, and their support for Hillary Clinton isn't a given.

"It would be a mistake to say that Hillary Clinton is the Latino candidate," Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, the largest national Latino online advocacy organization, told National Journal. "She has a lot to prove, and frankly, there's a long list of concerns that she has to address, and it starts with her stances on ending the massive deportation program that continues in this country."

Carmona, along with Dream Act Coalition co-director Erika Andiola, signed a letter in late March calling for a contested primary in MoveOn.org's "Run Warren Run" initiative. The initiative, launched in mid-December, has received more than 300,000 signatures and raised $1.25 million. Warren has said she has no plans to run for president, but activists are hopeful that a bigger field in the Democratic primary would foster a rigorous debate on issues important to Hispanics, such as immigration reform.

 In November, Clinton, who is expected to announce her presidential campaign soon, tweeted her support for President Obama's executive action to shield four million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Clinton was mostly quiet on the subject before the tweet—dodging questions from activists while in Iowa last fall, for example—and has remained quiet since.

That's been the case for nearly every big campaign issue. In the rare occasion that she has spoken out—whether on immigration, LGBT rights, Obamacare, or vaccines—it has been through tweets.

On immigration reform, however, Clinton's attempts to lay low could hinder her on the road to clinching the Hispanic vote, immigration activists say. They want to hear a definitive stance on immigration policy, and Clinton hasn't given it to them yet.

Cesar Vargas, co-director of the Dream Act Coalition, a national Latino advocacy group, on wanting a contested Democratic primary.

Jose Parra, a former senior adviser to Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, says that while Clinton is expected to secure the Hispanic vote in a potential race, her messaging is key. "The policy positions are there, it's matter of communicating them," he said, adding that while immigration policy should be a starting point, it's a gateway to issues such as healthcare and education policy.

During last year's midterm elections, Hispanics rated education, health care, immigration, jobs and the economy, and events in the Middle East as the five issues most important to them, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The survey also found that Hispanics have more trust in the Democratic party than the Republican party on immigration, the economy, and foreign policy. In 2012, Obama received 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, while Mitt Romney got 27 percent.

That doesn't mean that Clinton will be able to just coast to a similar turnout. In 2016, "both parties can capture the Latino electorate, but must be smart in their approach," Vargas said.

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Chuck Rocha, a veteran Democratic political strategist, said that although the Democratic party is in the lead, Republicans will be actively vying for the Hispanic vote that Romney fell short in. "It's very important that she gets out there first, and lets her policy be known," Rocha said of Clinton. "We want someone to give clear answers."

Take former Florida governor Jeb Bush, for example. While he opposes the president's executive actions, the likely Republican presidential candidate once called illegal immigration "an act of love" and continues to support a pathway to citizenship in an immigration package that would also require undocumented immigrants to pay fines and learn English. Bush, who is fluent in Spanish and married to a Mexican-born American, could compete for a share of Hispanic voters. For those reasons, Spanish-language media outlets have touted him as a "Hispanic candidate," pairing him with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who have last names with Hispanic origins. In 2004, Jeb's brother George W. Bush won close to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote—a number any Republican candidate will have to reach—and a very possible goal for Jeb—according to Rocha.

But it's unlikely Bush would provide a compelling stance on immigration during primaries to capture the Hispanic vote—making the threat of Latino voters soon shifting their loyalties en mass seem empty. Similarly, Rubio, who also could draw votes away from Clinton, would likely not express the support immigration activists are searching for at this point in the election cycle. While Rubio introduced in 2013 an ultimately unsuccessful immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, he has since shifted his stance to a more conservative-friendly approach.

Between now and the general election, there's plenty of time for Clinton to provide a detailed stance on immigration as a crowded field of GOP candidates pulls through the primaries. And immigration activists understand that. "In the primary, [Bush] has to navigate his waters," Vargas said. "We understand the practicalities of him not coming out right away, but for us it's how open he is to speaking to Dreamers."

Until then, Hispanic voters will have to look patiently to Clinton in hopes that she becomes the immigration advocate they're looking for. She may not have much immediate competition for Hispanic support on immigration, but leaving a vital piece of the electorate feeling lukewarm could eventually play into Republican hands.

Source: National journal

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