A new policy to halt deportations of young undocumented immigrants has already boosted President Barack Obama's standing among Latino voters.
In a move that is likely to reverberate through the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration said on Friday that it would allow many young immigrants to apply for immunity from deportation and work permits. The immigrants who would be eligible for relief -- those who are younger than 30 and arrived in the country before they were 16, have committed no crimes and have graduated from high school, earned a G.E.D. or have served in the military -- are similar to the population that would be affected by the DREAM Act, a top priority for immigration advocates that has not been able to surmount Republican opposition.
Hispanic Voters More Enthusiastic About Obama
A Latino Decisions poll conducted over the weekend found that 49 percent of Latino voters said the shift made them more enthusiastic about Obama, compared to 14 percent who said it made them less so and 34 percent whose impressions of the president remained unchanged.
The poll surveyed voters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia -- all contested states where the Latino electorate could be the decisive factor. The surge in Hispanic support for Obama underscores the fact that the timing of the new policy reflects a political calculation, with the Obama administration seeking to appeal to a crucial demographic group that has grown disillusioned with the president since turning out heavily in his favor during the 2008 election.
Previous polls found Hispanic voter to be displeased with Obama's record on deportation. Obama has embraced an enforcement-first approach that has led to an unprecedented number of deportations, and a prior Latino Decisions poll found that voters said the wave of deportations diminished their enthusiasm for Obama by a two-to-one margin.
Romney: Obama Move Is Rooted In Electoral Politics
Likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney depicted the new policy as a nakedly political move during a weekend appearance on the CBS program Face the Nation.
He was President for the last three and a half years, did nothing on immigration, Romney said. Two years, he had a Democrats' House in Senate, did nothing of permanent or-- or long-term basis.
But in a sign of the issue's sensitivity and potential impact on the election, Romney repeatedly declined to say whether he would halt the new initiative. Polls show Romney lagging far behind Obama among Hispanic voters, a shortfall he has said potentially spells doom for his presidential bid.