THE BLOG
11/13/2012 08:14 am ET Updated Jan 13, 2013

Payback Time for Hispanics? An Interview With Maria Hinojosa

The blame game in the Republican ranks over which candidate(s) or what tactics lost the election is likely to go on for quite some time. But the rest of the country is moving on -- the election is over. President Obama won. Now it's payback time for those who put him in office -- most notably women and minorities. At 16 percent of the electorate, Hispanics are nation's largest minority group, and you can bet they will be looking for a new direction from the president.

The day after the election I interviewed nationally known journalist Maria Hinojosa, named three times as one of the nation's 100 Most Influential Hispanics for her work as a reporter for CBS, NPR, and CNN, for my radio show Equal Time With Martha Burk. We talked about Hinojosa's PBS Election 2012 special America By the Numbers: Clarkston Georgia, this year's election cycle, and why Hispanics went so big for Obama, particularly the women.

MB: Let's talk about Hispanic women first. The Hispanic community voted for Obama overwhelmingly, but within that Hispanic vote there was an 11 point gender gap between women and men, the largest in any ethnic group. Seventy-six percent of Hispanic women gave Obama their vote, while 65 percent of Hispanic men did. Why the disparity?

MH: There was concern among Hispanic women about somewhat radical statements that Romney made around rolling back Roe v. Wade, around reproductive rights and health care, and Planned Parenthood. Yes, Latinas have core family values, but they are also 100 percent American women and they expect to have options and control of their own reproductive futures. Latina women may say they have issues around abortion, but in the end they are getting abortions as much or moreso than other women.

MB: In traveling for your reporting, did people bring up Romney's 47% comment?

MH: Yes. In central Florida men and women consistently brought it up without any prompting from me. They took it very personally that he would lump them all in to some kind of unproductive class. For many Latino voters this was entirely the opposite of the religious candidate that Romney was trying to portray.

MB: What else was important?

MH: The decision to not stay home. The Latino electorate showed up. They said we feel targeted, these voter ID laws are a challenge to us, and we are going to come out and vote. That is a win for out entire country and the democracy.

MB: How about immigration?

MH: You're talking about a lot of mothers who are looking at stories about families that have been divided by detention and deportation. [Obama] has deported and detained more Latinos than any other president, and they still voted for him in overwhelming numbers.

MB: But in June President Obama announced a program to shield young unauthorized immigrants from being deported, and allow them to get temporary but renewable work permits.

MH: I will hold this President's feet to the fire in terms of his record on detention and classifying people as criminals when they are not. 2012-06-12-yourvoicesmallest2.JPGWhoever was elected president, I would hold them accountable on this issue. That directive was a turning point because young Hispanic activists were putting themselves on the line, as they should be if they are the face of the new civil rights movement. The administration and the campaign decided they had to do something fast, because they didn't want young Latino immigrants taking over campaign headquarters to be the picture of the campaign.

MB: Is the program going to work?

MH: I am highly critical and skeptical. It is two years long, not permanent. There is no road [to citizenship] of any sort. If these young people have contact with law enforcement for any reason -- broken taillight, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk -- they are not guaranteed a right to no deportation. There is nothing legally binding for an immigration agent to give deferred action to that young person. It's up to the individual agent.

MB: What's the larger takeaway from this election?

MH: It is perhaps that the progressiveness of the American electorate is out there more than cable networks would like us to believe. Americans desperately want leadership [on immigration], not plugging a hole here or fending off members of Congress there. This what I think Latinos are hoping to get this time around from the President. Ultimately it goes back to the citizens to push for that. That's what democracy looks like.

Listen to Maria Hinojosa's full interview here:

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