Photo: Eva Longoria Addressing the DNC
Hispanics have been in the spotlight more than ever at this week’s Democratic National Convention, a sign that the Barack Obama campaign must attract more Latinos to the polls in November.
However, and against the predictions of many Hispanics who were at the convention in Charlotte this week, Obama made no mention in his speech about immigration reform, a promise of his 2008 campaign that has yet to be fulfilled.
Speaking at the convention were not only rising stars of the party like San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro but also ordinary citizens like Johanny Adames, an undocumented immigrant who became a U.S. citizen last year.
The event was notable for a number of firsts: Castro was the first Hispanic keynote speaker at a U.S. major party convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the first Latino chair of a convention, and Benita Veliz became the first undocumented immigrant ever to speak at such an event.
And more Spanish was heard than ever before, from the “si, se puede” (yes we can) of 2008, which was repeated by many including actress Eva Longoria and talk show queen Cristina Saralegui, to the words “dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres” (tell me with whom you hang out and I will tell you who you are), cited by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Even first lady Michelle Obama ventured to say “si, se puede” during a visit to the Hispanic Caucus on Tuesday.
The big topic with Hispanic speakers - and even Vice President Joe Biden - was the DREAM Act, a bill that would offer a path to legalization for qualified undocumented youth but which stalled in the Senate in late 2010.
In such an atmosphere Obama was expected to commit himself in his acceptance speech for the nomination to promoting immigration reform, a point included in the party platform approved on Tuesday.
Delegates like Katherine Mejia Alexander awaited impatiently for it to be mentioned, but it never was. “The president has to explain to the nation, and particularly to members of our community, the reasons why he did not fulfill his immigration promise,” she told Efe Friday.
The absence of the subject in the main speech took some of the impact away from the big Hispanic showing at the convention, which took pains to spur Latino presence at the polls on Nov. 6.
Obama has around 65 percent of voter preference among Hispanics, but another 14 percent are undecided, according to a recent survey by the Zogby research firm.
In key states with a Hispanic presence like Colorado, Nevada and Florida, the campaign has to mobilize that segment of the population if it wants to equal the number of Latinos who voted for him in 2008, which with 10.2 million was the highest in history.
Many of the almost 800 Hispanic delegates who were in Charlotte this week are continuing their efforts to make that happen, as in the case of Elena McCullough.
“Obama is like a Hispanic, he shares our values, and has opened the way for there to be a Hispanic president of the United States,” the delegate from Florida said Friday, adding that she feels “part of the campaign” and sees an “enormous enthusiasm” among Hispanics.