03/01/2012 07:16 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Elephant Memory: Why Latinos Won't Forget Their Mistreatment From Both Parties

"An elephant never forgets," they say.

A handful of new studies confirm that this old adage has some truth to it. Turns out, what the lumbering creatures remember best is which elephants have been friendly to their herd and which have not.

As the politicians start parading as friends to our herd in preparation for November, Latinos would do well to take a page from the animal kingdom and remember how we were treated by the elephants in the GOP primary season, and even the donkeys for most of Obama's presidency.

On Sunday, The New York Times' Adam Nagourney reported that Republicans in Arizona were cooling off on the issue of illegal immigration, with the GOP candidates mentioning the topic sparingly in recent weeks. On Monday, CNN's opinion contributor Ali Noorani wrote that "a fundamental shift is occurring among conservatives", with new Republican groups championing a "more compassionate" approach to immigration. And On Tuesday, Syracuse University released a report claiming that Obama slowed deportations drastically in the last three months.

But, a Latina never forgets. Or at least not that quickly.

In the past few months, Republican frontrunners ratcheted up anti-immigrant talk, pledging aggressive measures to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Romney suggested making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants that they "self-deport," Gingrich called for a "double fence" on the border, and Ron Paul promised to "attack their benefits," such as "free education" and "birth right citizenship." The rhetoric got so bad that GOP sweetheart Marco Rubio even spoke out against his own party, calling their tone on the issue "intolerable" and "inexcusable."

And Democrats, after winning the Latino vote three years ago, have fallen through on almost every campaign promise to Latinos, and then some. As Univision anchor Jorge Ramos put it, Obama broke an "important and symbolic" promise to the Latino community when he failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform and the Dream Act -- a measure supported by more than 90% of U.S. Latinos. And just in case that didn't hurt enough, the Obama administration set deportation records in 2011, expelling nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants, breaking up families and leaving an estimated 5,100 children languishing in U.S. foster homes.
So after all that abuse, late February of 2012 seems like a convenient time for both parties to repent by turning the tide of deportations and anti-immigrant rhetoric. With Super Tuesday less than a week away, the Republican candidates are starting to understand that they must back-pedal on the issue of immigration, and quickly.

While immigration isn't the only issue for our herd, but it is surely an emotional one -- and one that sometimes becomes shorthand to Latino voters for how a candidate feels about Latinos in general, as Politico's Ben Smith argues.

So although CNN's Ali Noorani writes that "a fundamental shift is occurring among conservatives" towards a more compassionate tone on immigration, let's remind ourselves of the true shift that occurred in the last year. Past Republican candidates, from Reagan to McCain, including both Bushes in between, were advocates of a "humane" approach to immigration. The real "fundamental shift" that occurred in the Republican party this year happened in the opposite direction.

WATCH: Bush and Reagan Depart From Current GOP Candidates On Immigration

Along with the GOP's rapid migration towards the center on the issue of immigration, we can expect to see Obama's attempts to squirm his way out of his deportation record and explain away his inaction on both comprehensive immigration reform and the Dream Act. He'll surely blame congress, he'll probably fault Republicans. Hell, the chupacabra might get a shout out too.

Republicans and Democrats alike are quickly figuring out, as this week's TIME Magazine argues, that the growing Latino population may decide the President in 2012. But Latinos will need more than just circus peanuts to forget how the herd was treated by both parties in 2011.