This election year Latinos came into their own politically. Never in the history of the country have we been subject to more political attention than in 2012, a year that saw increasingly sophisticated and numerous polls of Latinos, hundreds of millions of dollars spent on reaching Latino voters on the streets, media debates and regular reports on a vote some consider determinant for winning the presidency.
In the case of Barack Obama's reelection, Latinos will (briefly) celebrate before undertaking the work of helping President Obama fulfill his commitment to the country and to Latinos. Already, Latino organizations across the country are preparing events and actions around improving the situation of the millions of immigrants living under the cloud of fear imposed by their undocumented status and by policies that many of us expect will be phased out in his second and final term. Many Latinos believe it will be truly tragic if President Obama's Latino and immigration legacy is marked by a continuation of discriminatory and devastating policies like the controversial SCOMM racial profiling program that requires local police and other law enforcement officers to racially profile and arrest people because of how they look.
We are hopeful that in his second term, when he has no other reelection, that the president will be in a better position to advance a national and international agenda that represents the interests of the majority. We also hope and expect that the president will continue the positive direction on immigration reform hinted by his decision to use his executive authority to grant DREAM act eligible students temporary relief thru the Deferred Action program. Latinos supported the president in his re-election in the expectation that he will expand the use of his executive authority to provide relief to the millions of other immigrants facing a difficult situation because of programs like the SCOMM program, which many of us want the president to either fundamentally alter or abolish because of the documented pain, discrimination and fear caused by this program.
In a second term, President Obama will have an opportunity at a 'second Latino' honeymoon of sorts. With the elections behind us, the "honeymoon" will be very short as Latinos will come to the administration with very high expectations of being heard more than in the first term, when we found our concerns about immigration and other issues greeted with a friendly "Now's not a good time because of the elections." Any sign of this sad reality of governance as practiced by many Democrats (Republicans generally reject us out-of-hand) will quickly escalate the stakes.
We are, nonetheless, optimistic that President Obama will find space to hear us just as he has done during this most contested of Presidential elections. A second Obama term will, we hope, mean less a continuation of the politics of symbolism and more an expansion of the politics of substance.