A series of polls released by the NCLR Action Fund and Latino Decisions show that immigration will once again be a top priority for Latino voters on Election Day. In late September, the groups surveyed Latino voters in Florida, Colorado, and North Carolina, states where the rapidly growing Latino population is poised to help decide who wins in a number of hotly contested races. In addition to reporting that most respondents were planning to vote this election cycle, the polls showed that immigration was consistently among the top issues for Latino voters in these states. Thirty-three percent of Latino voters in North Carolina listed immigration as the most important issue in the midterms -- the top issue for that state -- while it garnered 22 percent in Florida and 23 percent in Colorado, placing immigration only one or two points behind economic priorities.
Part of the reason that this issue continues to be so important for Latino voters is because it's personal. Those being deported are family members and friends; tight-knit communities are forced to endure needless suffering because politicians refuse to get their acts together. When asked whether they knew a family member, friend or co-worker who was undocumented, more than 40 percent of respondents in Florida, 50 percent in Colorado, and 60 percent in North Carolina responded affirmatively. These are extraordinarily high numbers of people who have to live with the constant fear that somebody they know could be deported at any time. And many are fed up with lawmakers for refusing to help.
Almost half of respondents in Colorado and North Carolina said that they were much less likely to support a Republican congressional candidate who voted to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for undocumented youth. As NCLR stated when House Republicans attacked the program this past summer, attempts to eliminate relief for young undocumented immigrants are a slap in the face to the Latino community and show blatant disrespect for our growing electorate.
However, the president is not walking away unscathed with Latinos voters for his politically motivated decision not expand relief to the millions of undocumented immigrants. The poll of Florida's voters specifically asked who Latino voters blame for the lack of progress on immigration: House Republicans, President Obama, or both. Although House Republicans still lead at 42 percent, 32 percent blame the president, while almost 20 percent of respondents say both share blame.
The directive from Latino voters is clear: Reform the immigration system and do it quickly. The president should use his executive authority to help provide temporary relief to the millions of aspiring Americans living in the shadows. But that in no way excuses House Republicans and the rest of Congress from doing their job by passing a permanent solution. Lives are hanging in the balance and Latino voters won't forget who has helped our community.