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Obama courts the Latino vote

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Obama is looking to win over more Latino voters before November
  • On Super Tuesday he received 35 percent of their vote to Sen. Clinton's 63 percent
  • Obama and GOP's Sen. McCain supported U.S.-Mexico border fence legislation
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From Lisa Sylvester
CNN Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president, is looking to shore up support -- especially from Latinos.

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Sen. Barack Obama is aiming to win over more Latino voters before Election Day.

During the primaries on Super Tuesday, he received only 35 percent of Latinos' vote, while former rival Sen. Hilary Clinton's received 63 percent.

"There really wasn't an opportunity for Barack Obama to introduce himself to Latino voters.

"He needs to get out there and do that and he needs to listen to Latino voters and understand what they care about," said Arturo Vargas, of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Obama has supported President Bush-backed immigration legislation, which would have increased funding and improved border security technology, improved enforcement of existing laws, and provided a legal path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

The Illinois senator also voted to authorize construction of a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

The Obama campaign said in a statement: "It's not that we will grant citizenship, but we strongly support requiring them to legalize their status and allowing them to earn their right to commit to this country and eventually become citizens." Video Watch the debate over immigration »

Latino groups see that a new administration could be an opportunity to tilt the immigration debate in favor of an amnesty agenda.

They have been vocal. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently blasted opponents of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as promoting fearmongering and intolerance.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, this past week sharply criticized recent raids by the Immigraton and Customs Enforcement.

"Our legitimate desire to get control of our borders has too often turned into a witch hunt against Hispanic Americans and other people of color," Menendez said.

The Center for Immigration Studies, which favors a tighter immigration policy, does not believe the outspoken approach of Latino leaders will carry much weight with voters weary of the nation's broken borders.

"Most Americans recognize the United States should have some immigration, but that there are real problems of enforcement and control and numbers ... or they can say these things in an effort to silence their opponents ... it's not clear it's all that effective," said Steve Camarota, of the immigration studies center.

Now with Clinton out of the race, Obama has been trying to win over some of her Hispanic supporters.

But Obama's Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, has been popular among Hispanics as one of the original authors of what's known as the comprehensive immigration bill in the Senate.

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That legislation would have increased funding and improved border security technology, improved enforcement of existing laws, and provided a legal path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

McCain also voted to authorize construction of a U.S.-Mexican border fence.

CNN Political Producer Ed Hornick contributed to this report.

All About Hispanic and Latino IssuesU.S. Presidential Election

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