Leading up to Tuesdays elections, immigration advocates cautioned that many Latinos would feel disillusioned to vote for Democrats, including those in tight races, if President Barack Obama delayed executive action on immigration.
They cautioned that delaying action would make it more difficult to generate enthusiasm among Latinos to vote. Not heeding to their advice, Obama went ahead and delayed action in an attempt to help a handful of Senate Democrats win re-election and keep a Democratic majority in the Senate.
But as the election results show, that strategy failed and Republicans went on to clinch control of the Senate. Now, a day after the midterm elections, immigration advocates have a message for Obama and the Senate Democrats who called for the delay: Dont say we didnt warn you.
Advocates are also wasting no time in calling on the president to deliver on his promise to offer deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants through executive action.
Okay, the politics are over, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said at a press conference in Illinois Wednesday morning. The Senate has been lost, but you are still president of the United States of America. We elected you to a four-year term. It is time for you to act boldly.
Gutierrez added, Times up. Its time for the president of the United States to act and defend our community and to be brave and to be courageous and to keep his commitment and his word to our community.
Inaction on immigration discouraged Latinos
Shortly after Gutierrez made those remarks, Latino Decisions released a new poll of about 4,200 high-propensity Latino voters that gives some credibility to the warnings from immigration advocates. The poll results, released Wednesday at a press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., suggest that Obamas delay on executive action discouraged some Latinos from voting this year.
Latinos who chose not to vote this year were asked how the delay in executive action made them feel. According to the poll, 60 percent said the delay made them feel less enthusiastic about supporting the Democratic Party, and only 23 percent said it made them feel more enthusiastic.
We have, for the first time, some evidence that suggests that for some of these voters who didnt vote, in fact, they were mentioning this as a reason that they were less enthusiastic about Tuesday Nov. 4, said Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions, pointing to Obamas delay on immigration.
But Democrats have a chance to make amends with Latinos. Barreto noted that 68 percent of Latinos who didnt vote this year said they would feel more enthusiastic about voting for Democrats in the future if Obama enacts immigration executive order before the end of this year. Only 15 percent said it would make them feel less enthusiastic.
The poll also found that while Democrats continue to have overwhelming support from Latino voters compared to Republicans, that support is dwindling.
According to the poll, the share of Latinos who voted for Democrats in House races this year was 69 percent, down from 76 percent in 2010. The share of Latinos who voted for Democrats in governor races also dropped, going from 76 percent in 2010 to 68 percent this year.
Florida was the only state where the share of Latinos who voted for Democrats in both the House and governor races increased.
Republicans arent looking too good among Latino voters either. The poll found that 40 percent of Latino voters feel the Republican Party has become so anti-immigrant and anti-Latino that it would be difficult for them to consider supporting them.
Biggest takeaways from this election
Gary Seguro, co-founder of Latino Decisions, said the biggest takeaway from this elections is that the Latino vote continues to grow dramatically. But he said candidates from both sides of the aisle need to do a better job of inspiring and mobilizing Latinos to vote.
Many Latinos clearly feel ignored by the Democratic Party or taken advantage of or taken for granted, Seguro said. By contrast, many Latinos also feel that theyre directly under attack by the GOP.
Meanwhile, immigration advocates and Latino leaders agreed that in terms of the Latino vote, this election was a lost opportunity for Democrats.
Instead of embracing their records and our community, too many Senate Democrats either ignored or ran away from us, said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. And even in states where our vote couldve made a difference, the outreach and mobilization efforts were anemic. This proved costly for them last night.
Sen. Mark Udall (R-Colo.) is an example of a Senate Democrat who advocates said couldve done more to mobilize Latino voters, especially because an overwhelming majority of Latinos in Colorado support immigration reform as he does. But according to the Latino Decisions poll, 47 percent of Latinos in Colorado didnt know Udall was a supporter of immigration reform.
As a result, advocates said Udalls campaign missed an opportunity to reach out to Latinos on immigration and to get them more of them to vote for the Democratic senator, who lost his bid to Republican challenger Cory Gardner.
Frank Sharry, executive director of Americas Voice, also slammed Democrats, saying they seemed to be awfully cautious when it came to issues of immigration reform this year. But he added that the Latino Decisions poll results show that didnt work out too well for them.