Iowa Political Alert Editor
The Hispanic juggernaut that helped propel Barack Obama to his historic election is looking for barrier-shattering changes for its community -- sooner rather than later.
There is of course, immigration reform. But it doesn't stop there.
Hispanic advocates are calling on Obama to figure its community in appointments, and the president of the National Hispanic Bar Association (NHBA) has called on Obama to fill the first U.S. Supreme Court vacancy with a Latino.
"We hope that you will choose to make history yet again by nominating a Hispanic to fill the first Supreme Court vacancy that occurs during your term," wrote the HNBA's Ramona E. Romero in a letter to Obama.
No Hispanic has ever served on the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an interview with La Prensa, a western Iowa Spanish-language paper, in 2007, well before the Iowa Caucuses, Obama pledged to move on comprehensive immigration reform in his first year as president.
Later, in a July session with the National Council of La Raza, Obama made a similar promise.
He has a major incentive to keep his promises, as do the majority Democrats.
Latinos went for Obama by a margin of 2 to 1, and a retention of this community in the Democratic column jeopardizes the very existence of a national Republican Party.
But with a flagging economy (the treasury secretary today fieled questions about a potential Depression) the question for the Hispanic community is this: can Obama dare make immigration reform a priority.
"Obama is committed to [comprehensive immigration reform] in the long run, and his debt to Latino voters will ensure that he makes good on his promise," Daniel Kowalski of Bender's Immigration Bulletin told The New York Daily News. "But it will take time - 2012 at the earliest, probably later."
But the Democrats -- with some Senate seats still in the balance -- have huge majorities, and the simple resurrection of the compromise immigration bill that Obama supported -- along with John McCain -- could go a long way toward solidifying Hispanic loyalty to Democrats for a generation. At least 10 million Latino voters cast ballots, an increase in participation of 32% from the 2004 Presidential Election.
"The question for Democrats as they think about tackling immigration reform is, are they going to take (Hispanic support) for granted or are they going to feel they need to do something in the shorter term in order to solidify it?" Tamar Jacoby, the CEO of ImmigrationWorksUSA, a national employers' coalition, told Reuters.
While he pulled the support at the polls earlier this months and retains generalized goodwill, there is concern among the Latino community that Obama is not being inclusive enough of them in forming his administration.
Consider this from the immigrant advocacy Web site, Feet In 2 Worlds:
The National Latino Opinion Leaders Survey was conducted between Nov. 8 and 14. Over 900 Latinos in the U.S. and Puerto Rico — community leaders, activists, government officials, business people, and members of nonprofit organizations, religion, academia and the media — took part, according to the institute, which published a summary of the study on Monday through its electronic newsletter.
When asked “if the Obama team was adequately including Latinos in the transition process, 32 percent said ‘no’, 46 percent were not sure or didn’t know, and only 22 percent said ‘yes.’ 53 percent said that the Democratic Party was not being responsive to the needs of the Latino community, as opposed to 21 percent who said it was responsive.