Last November, President Barack Obama’s re-election gave him the clout needed to advocate for a comprehensive immigration reform package, which he plans to unveil later this month and hopes to implement this summer. At the outset, reform discussions show signs of strong bipartisan support.
The president’s decisive win at the polls made it clear that the Latino population has become a voting block, which neither party can afford to ignore or underestimate. For the Republican Party, former Mass. governor and republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s dismal polling numbers among Latino voters was a grim wake-up call. Republicans fearing another defeat in 2016 have had to make hard concessions regarding their connection with not only Latino voters but also non-white voters, which make up at least 26 percent of the electorate.
According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, Obama carried a stark 71 percent of the Latino vote, which for the first time in history, is at 10 percent of the electorate, an increase from nine percent in 2008 and eight percent in 2004. In 2008, Obama carried 67 percent of the Latino vote. These figures indicate a hardening alignment between Latinos and the Democratic Party, a fact that has many conservatives uneasy about the future of the Republican Party.
In January, A bipartisan group of senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), (Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), announced an immigration reform framework, which would include provisions for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S; a provision supported by the president.
A legal pathway for immigrants residing in the U.S. has historically been a sticking point, making past immigration reform attempts impossible. In late January at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, the president unveiled his own plan and discussed his support for a pathway for immigrants.
“Yes, they broke the rules, they crossed the border illegally,” Obama said in his speech, “but these 11 million men and women are here… They're looking out for their families. They're looking out for their neighbors. They're woven into the fabric of our lives.”
Soon after, the president met with union leaders including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the largest federation of North American labor unions, to strengthen support for what is poised to be tough a battle in Congress.
Five years ago, labor organizations lobbied against an immigration bill, which hinted at a temporary guest-worker provision for seasonal workers. The AFL-CIO and other prominent union organizations, in fear of weakening union membership and political strength, pressured many liberal democrats to lean against the reform.
This time, the president chose to meet with union leaders first to ensure key players who are in support of his agenda. In a statement posted on its website, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke of his support for Obama’s immigration reform push.