The Dreamers and the elections

The Dreamers, those undocumented youths intent on pursuing their dreams, continue to give us much to talk about.

A survey about their attitudes and political preferences, designed by Tom Wong, professor of Political Science at the University of California/San Diego, and published last week, has reflected an uncommon situation: if the political parties — especially the Democratic Party — and the candidates to public office want to know how to attract the Hispanic vote, they cannot afford to ignore Hispanics’ opinion, even if the Dreamers are not U.S. citizens and are not entitled to vote.

The reason is the parallel that exists between the political attitudes of the Dreamers and those of Latino voters. It could be said that the survey faithfully reflects not only the disenchantment of young people with the Democratic Party and President Obama but also the disappointment of the Hispanic community in general.

Erika Andiola“It is clear that the Republicans have failed the Latinos by not doing anything about immigration. The Democrats, however, also are failing the Latinos by not doing enough to halt the deportations,” said Erika Andiola, co-director of the DREAM Action Coalition, in a message to Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, last week.

The fact that the survey found that, contrary to popular belief, only half the Dreamers identify themselves as Democrats and that 45 percent stay away from both parties and declare themselves “independent” should serve as a warning to President Obama’s party.

After all, Obama created the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) in June 2012 especially for the Dreamers. As you may remember, DACA allows undocumented students to remain in this country and work legally here for two renewable years. Some 550,000 youths have already benefited from it.

However, two years later, with immigration reform breathing its last in Congress and President Obama’s stubborn refusal to stop the deportations (2 million already), the Dreamers’ confidence in the Democrats — and Obama in particular — has dissolved in a sea of frustrated expectations and unfulfilled promises.

Also, and for the same reasons, the community’s confidence in the president and in the Democrats’ commitment to solve their most pressing problems has vanished.

Proof of this is the steep plunge in the Latino support for Obama, which was decisive for his reelection. Between December 2012 and November 2013, that support fell no less than 23 points, from 75 percent in December 2012 to 52 percent in November 2013, according to a Gallup survey.

Does this mean that, from now on, Latinos are going to vote en masse for the Republicans? Of course not. Latino voters are not fools. Like the half of the Dreamers who have not translated their deception into sympathy for the Republicans (to whom only 5 percent said they’d support) but into a distancing from both parties, Latinos are not going to vote for a party from which they expect nothing.

Undoubtedly, however, a growing number of them, feeling betrayed by Obama and his refusal to suspend the deportations and thus alleviate the drama of family separations, simply might opt for not voting at all. That would deprive the Democrats of a segment of voters that is becoming increasingly essential to them.

According to the survey, about 75 percent of the Dreamers said that their support to the Democrats will depend on whether the party will take steps to end the deportations and family separations. I dare to bet that the Hispanic community as a whole shares that sentiment.

In other words, it will be one or the other: Either President Obama finally does right by the Latinos or the Democrats will have to bid farewell to a great percentage of them, who will not bother to vote. And that, no doubt, would make Republicans very happy.

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