The ad begins with a stark, black-and-white still, the president standing at a congressional podium, mouth open, hand up, mid-speech. It is the image of a politician making a promise.
“Don’t be fooled by President Obama’s words,” a voice says in Spanish. “He’s not committed to immigrants. He only wants our votes. With the election on the line, he offers a temporary solution that still cheats them of legal status.”
The image on the screen: a handcuffed woman being frisked by law enforcement officers.
Just days before President Barack Obama’s deferred action directive -– a policy shift that could grant deportation relief to as many as 1.4 million young undocumented immigrants across the county -– is slated to begin, a group that describes itself as a conservative Latino political organization unleashed an attack-ad campaign that brands Obama, “Deporter-in-Chief.”
But, analysts said, the campaign also offers a window into the most cynical and dark corners of modern politics.
The ads, which began airing this week on Las Vegas-area, Spanish-language television and radio stations, are part of a conservative effort to trim away Obama’s resounding lead with Latino voters. Leaders of American Principles in Action, the organization behind the ads, said it is also an effort to challenge the simplistic Democrats-good-Republicans-bad narrative that has taken hold with too many Latino voters.
The Obama administration has deported a record 1.2 million undocumented immigrants. The administration’s stated policy has, since at least mid-2010, focused on deporting those who have committed crimes or pose a risk to public safety. But independent studies of the nation’s immigration caseload have found that the overwhelming majority of those deported never were convicted of a crime or were arrested for a minor offense.
“What we are saying to voters is that both parties have played politics with immigration,” said Alfonso Aguilar, who oversaw the Bush Administration’s Citizenship Office and is a part of American Principles in Action's leadership team. “What we are saying is that Latinos also have to play the game and let it be known that our votes can not be taken for granted.”
The American Principles campaign amounts to what political strategists consider a small investment. The organization paid $38,000 for two weeks of ad time in the Las Vegas area, a relatively low-cost media market in a swing state where Latino voters are largely concentrated in a single area.
Over the next few months, if funding allows, the organization may launch similar campaigns in swing states with large and concentrated Latino electorates in Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Florida, Aguilar said.
In Nevada, the "Deporter-in-Chief" ads are coordinated with effortsto talk with Latinos visiting Las Vegas-area grocery stores, churches and community gatherings to encourage them “to vote their values.”
Those values, Aguilar said, include limited government, the importance of a free-market economy and support for “traditional families and marriages.” American Principles can help voters who may not be aware of Obama’s deportation track record see beyond the temporary value of the deferred action directive and think about issues on which they share Republican ideals, he said.
“We’re not practicing what I call piñata politics,” said Aguilar. “That’s where you bring in the politician. You bring the mariachi. And, what you have is the flavor and none of the substance. What we are trying to do is connect voters to their values and then say, 'It’s OK, go vote that'.”
But that's where the campaign may run into trouble, said Efren Perez, a Vanderbilt University political scientist who studies the politics of immigration and group dynamics.
He said the ad feels like it was produced by affluent, conservative political analysts who are somewhat divorced from the nation’s largely Democratic, low- to moderate-income Latino population.
While there are some Latinos, who are Republicans and get enthusiastic about concepts such as limited government, the overwhelming majority of Latinos are Democrats with a range of experiences, social and political concerns that predispose them to be Democrats, said Perez.
They also understand the Republican Party to be increasingly hostile to immigrants and consider Romney an advocate of so-called, “self-deportation,” Perez said.
An ad that asks voters to dismiss what will happen Aug. 15 is hardly credible coming from a conservative organization, he said.
“The average Latino voter, the average voter for that matter, is not a political philosopher,” said Perez. “There just aren’t that many people who are actually going to say and believe that an actual policy change like this isn’t a big deal. It is a very, very big thing.”
In order to have an impact and cut through ideas about Republicans and immigration, the ads would need to run in more than one media market closer to the election, he said.
In July, the Washington-based nonprofit Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, released a report that described American Principles as a group providing Astroturf-like cover for a “network of conservatives with a track record of creating sophisticated grassroots campaigns.” That network includes “few” Latinos, according to the report.
Aguilar declined to describe American Principles' major funding sources. The organization is not legally required to disclose its donors.
Beyond questions about its financial ties and origins, American Principles can point to few specific or concrete policy proposals backed by Romney that are enticing alternatives to the Obama administration’s approach, said William Eubank, a University of Nevada political scientist.
In the face of the deferred action directive, an ad that says clearly to Latino voters that Obama's policies on immigration are bad is likely to have one effect: It will convince some voters that there is no point in participating at all.
“It’s dark and people don’t like it, but sometimes if you can’t win, stoking dissatisfaction can be just as effective,” said Eubank. “There is a reason why attack ads are still with us. It’s simple. They work.”
Estrella Manuel, 2, holds an American flag in her mouth during a news conference in Miami Wednesday, June 17, 2009. Roughly 150 children are suing President Barack Obama to halt the deportations of their parents until Congress overhauls U.S. immigration laws. The U.S.-born children say their constitutional rights are being violated because they, too, will likely have to leave the country if their parents are forced to leave. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Memorial dedicated to the children of the Paris Vel D'Hiv round-up
French former President Jacques Chirac looks at photographs of victims, on January 27, 2011 in Orleans, central France, during the unveiling of a memorial dedicated to the children of the Paris Vel D'Hiv round-up, as part of a worldwide souvenir day. On July 16 and 17, 1942, some 13,000 Jews were detained and taken to the Velodrome d'Hiver cycling stadium near the Eiffel Tower, where they spent a week in appalling conditions, before being deported to Nazi concentration camps. AFP PHOTO/ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/GettyImages)
Deportations From Greece
Migrants on a police bus in central Athens, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. Greek police say officers have begun an operation to arrest and deport illegal migrants from the center of the capital and along the country
Flying Kites In Memory Of Orphans Deported To Treblinka
Members of the Israeli youth movement HaMachanot HaOlim fly kites in memory of Janusz Korczak on August 5, 2012 during an event marking 70 years since the deportation to Treblinka of Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska, and the children of their orphanage, from the Warsaw Ghetto at the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. On August 5, 1942, the Nazis rounded up Korczak, Wilczynska and the 200 children of the orphanage. He and Stefa never abandoned the children, even to the very end. Korczak, Wilczynska and the children were sent to Treblinka, where they were all murdered. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/GettyImages)
Hamas leader holds a portrait of arrested Islamist leader
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya holds a portrait of Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the radical wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, during a protest in Gaza City on July 5, 2011, after the controversial Arab-Israeli Islamist leader was arrested in London for entering the country despite a government ban and now faces deportation from Britain. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
Remembering Deportation Of Chechens
A woman holds a poster showing President Putin's portrait drawn as a razor wire during anti-Putin rally in Moscow, 23 February 2005, during Democtraic Union party's protest action for the 61th anniversary of Stalin's deportation of Chechens to Siberia and Kazakhstan. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV. (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/GettyImages)
Suspected FARC Member Deported From Ecuador
Edilson Castro Lopez, center, a suspected member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, is escorted by police officers, after arriving in Bogota, Colombia, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. Castro was deported from Ecuador where he was captured Saturday. Castro Lopez was in Ecuador negotiating an arms deal for the FARC, according to police chief, Gen. Jose Roberto Leon. (AP Photo)
Iraqi and Iranians protest in the Iraqi city of Baquba
Iraqi and Iranians protest in the northeastern Iraqi city of Baquba, the capital of the province of Diyala, on November 18, 2011, calling on the government to have the residents of the Ashraf camp deported and the camp closed. Iraq has served a virtual 'death warrant' on some 3,400 Iranian dissidents exiled in a camp north of Baghdad, the head of the European parliament's delegation for relations with Iraq said. Camp Ashraf was set up when Iraq and Iran were at war in the 1980s by the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) and was later placed under US control until January 2009, when US forces transferred security for the camp to Iraq. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
People place flowers in Vilnius honoring memory of people deported by Soviet forces
People place flowers in Vilnius on June 14, 2011 on a cattle wagon used to deport people from Lithuania to Siberia on June 14, 1941. The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on June 14 honoured the memory of tens of thousands of their citizens deported by Soviet forces exactly 70 years ago during World War II. In nationwide commemorations that only became possible after Soviet rule ended in 1991, leaders said the 43,000 victims of June 14, 1941 must never be forgotten. AFP PHOTO / PETRAS MALUKAS (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Remembering The Mass Deportations From The Warsaw Ghetto
People attach colourful ribbons with the names of Jewish children on the fence of a former Jewish orphanage during ceremonies in Warsaw on July 22, 2012 marking the 70th anniversary of the start of Nazi Germany's mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the death camp of Treblinka. AFP PHOTO / WOJTEK RADWANSKI (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/GettyImages)
Members of the English Defence League
Members of the English Defence League (EDL) chant holding placards calling for the deportation of radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada at opposing Unite Against Facism protesters as they gather outside the Home Office in central London on April 17, 2012. British authorities on April 17 arrested Abu Qatada, who is accused of ties to late Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, as they resumed efforts to deport him to Jordan. The UK government has been trying to extradite the 51-year-old Jordanian since 2005 arguing that he is a threat to national security, but British and European courts have repeatedly thwarted its efforts on human rights grounds. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese police excort a group of suspects deported from Indonesia
Chinese police excort a group of suspects (in black hoods) deported from Indonesia upon their arrival at the airport in Beijing on June 11, 2011. Indonesia deported 76 Chinese nationals who were among hundreds rounded up across Asia in connection with an alleged massive online fraud. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A boy born in Israel to a foreign worker
A boy born in Israel to a foreign worker, holds a letter in Hebrew addressed to Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu asking him not to be deported during a protest against a possible deportation of their families from Israel outside Prime Minister Netanyahu's residency in Jerusalem on February 21, 2012 organized by the NGO Israeli Children. Under an August 2010 cabinet decision, foreign workers with children could obtain residency rights if the child had come here before age 13, lived here at least five years, was either in school or about to enter first grade, and spoke Hebrew fluently, on condition that the parents initially entered Israel legally. Last week the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) began informing foreign workers and their children whether they have the right to stay in Israel or will face deportation in the next month. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, addresses a gathering of Indonesian immigrants at the Reformed Church of Highland Park Friday, April 6, 2012, in Highland Park, N.J. The church has granted sanctuary to a number of Indonesian Christian immigrants with final orders of deportation. Holt was speaking in favor of a bill by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, to try and reopen their cases. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Supreme Court considers SB1070
Tuulia Lowe protests against SB1070 and immigration deportations Wednesday, April 25, 2012, in San Francisco. Supreme Court justices strongly suggested Wednesday that they are ready to allow Arizona to enforce part of a controversial state law requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they think are in the country illegally. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
South Sudanese Refugee Deported From Israel
South Sudanese refugee Samuel Akue 30, carries his suitcases on June 11, 2012, in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv, as he prepares for his deportation by Israeli authorities. Israeli authorities rounded up dozens of migrants slated for deportation, most of them Africans from South Sudan, as the government weighs tough penalties against Israelis who help illegal aliens. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages)
President Obama Speaks On Homeland Security's Announcement About Deportations
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15: Members of CASA de Maryland gather in front of the White House to celebrate the Obama Administration's announcement about deportation of illegal immigrants June 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama said the administration will stop deporting undocumented immigrants who had come to the U.S. when they were at a young age. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Immigration Rights Activists Protest Possible Deportation Of Bangladeshi Student
POMPANO BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 25: (L-R) Frida Ulloa, Felipe Mato and Raul Gil and others hold a sign reading, ' Education Not Deportation'' as they stand in front of the Broward Transitional Center on October 25, 2011 in Pompano Beach, Florida. The group was protesting the possible deportation of Shamir Ali, a 25-year-old born in Bangladesh, who they say would be a candidate for the DREAM Act if it was made into a federal law. The DREAM Act bill would provide legal status to some undocumented young people. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Honduran migrants deported from the United States
Honduran migrants deported from the United States walk on a tarmac of Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa upon their arrival on December 23, 2011. The 134 migrants are part of the 40.000 Hondurans, including men, women and children, that have been deported from the US this year. AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Drug trafficker Hector Buitriago
Colombian police custody Colombian drug trafficker Hector Buitriago, aka Martin Llanos, upon his arrival at the antinarcotics police air base after his deportation from Venezuela, in Bogota on February 9, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Luis Acosta (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Immigrants and working families march to stop deportations on May Day
Immigrants and working families march to demand legalization for all immigrants and to stop deportations and the attacks on workers in Los Angeles, California on May 1, 2011. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
126 Guatemalans Arrive Back Home
Some of 126 deported Guatemalans wait for his turn to be registered by migration authorities upon arrival at the Air Force base in Guatemala City from the US Luisiana state on July 26, 2012. The United States deported 23,136 Guatemalans between January and July, a historical record that exceeds 28.3 % expulsions registered during the same period last year, according to records of the General Directorate of Migration of Guatemala. JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/GettyImages
Berlin Marks 70th Anniversary Of Jewish Deportations
BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 18: A young woman arrives to lay a rose at the Gleis 17 (Track 17) memorial on the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Berlin to concentration camps during World War II on October 18, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. On October 18, 1941, the Nazis began deporting Jewish residents of Berlin by rail to concentration camps, including to Theresienstadt and later to Auschwitz. In all approximately 56,000 Berlin Jews were deported and killed between 1941 and 1945, and today a memorial at Track 17, the original platform from which many Jews were crowded into freight cars for deportation, lists the dates, origins, destinations and numbers of Jews transported. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Immigrant Mother Of American Children Faces Deportation
DENVER, CO - MAY 23: Mexican immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra loads her children into her car after a meeting at the Mexican consulate in her fight against deportation hearings on May 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. She is scheduled for a final hearing July 13 at Denver's Federal Courthouse. Just one of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, Vizguerra is a small business owner of a janitorial service as well as an community organizer for immigration rights. She first came to Colorado from Mexico City with her husband 14 years before, and they now have three American-born children. Two years ago she was stopped by a traffic policemen for driving with expired tags and was taken to jail when she could not prove she was in the country legally. Vizguerra has been out on bail during lengthy court proceedings, but now faces the real possibility that she will be deported back to Mexico and separated from her family in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Romanian Roma victim of deportation during World War II
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY MIHAELA RODINA Romanian Roma victim of deportation during World War II, Marin Safta, 89, holds an old picture of him with his wife as he recounts on January 23, 2012 the widely forgotten tragedy in Bucharest. The deportation of thousands of Roma by Romanian marshal Ion Antonescu is an indelible stigma for the victims 70 years on, survivors and analysts say. Holocaust victims are commemorated across the world on January 27, declared an International Day of Rememberance. In May 1942, Romania's Antonescu ordered the deportation of 'nomad, idle and criminal Gypsies' (Roma) in order to 'cleanse villages and cities of poor or dangerous people.' Some 25,000 Roma, out of a total of 208,000 registered, were deported to Transdniestr, a formerly Soviet region that was at the time controlled by the Romanian pro-Nazi authorities. AFP PHOTO DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
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