Monday, February 14, 2011

Chico campaign digs out immigration reform (or lack thereof) to ding Emanuel

I have been wondering how long it would take before immigration reform (actually, the failure of anything to take place on that issue) would become an issue in the municipal elections.
CHICO: On the attack?

For the record, it was Sunday that Rahm Emanuel got hit for the fact that President Barack Obama did little to nothing to advance immigration reform, even though many of the Latino activists who gave him solid support in the ’08 election cycle did so with the belief that he would be sympathetic on the issue.

AMONG MANY LATINO activists, the belief is that Obama himself may be sympathetic. But it was Emanuel, his chief of staff, who made the decision to downplay the issue because he did not want to tick off the conservative ideologues (as though they aren’t already ticked off by Obama’s existence in the White House).

The failure of anything providing the necessary reform of our nation’s flawed immigration policies is something they want to blame on Emanuel. So it wasn’t at all surprising that Emanuel’s most significant challenger in the mayoral elections used that discontent among many Latinos to take a shot across Rahm’s bow.

Chico and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., held a Humboldt Park neighborhood rally on Sunday, using Roberto Clemente High School as the Latino-filled setting for the one-time Chicago Public Schools president/Park District head/City Colleges CEO to become the “Latino” candidate.

Of course, to give Chico that level of deniability that he’s delving into “ethnic politics” while still gaining its benefits, he had Gutierrez make the most incendiary statements, which might not even appear to be all that fiery except to those people who have been paying attention to the immigration reform debate (or lack, thereof).

“RAHM EMANUEL TURNED his back on working families by fighting immigration reform to enable the heart-breaking deportations that have torn Chicago families apart,” Gutierrez said. “Chicago can make history in just nine days by electing its first mayor who is Latino, but who also happens to be the best qualified candidate in the race.”
GUTIERREZ: El Gallito crows for Chico

An interesting spin, since by all factual accounts Emanuel is guilty of inactivity. Not exactly “fighting immigration reform.” It’s more about apathy toward the growing Latino population than anything else.

Insofar as families being broken apart (the reason that the Catholic Church always gives when it justifies its support for immigration reform), a University of California at Davis study last year estimated that 100,000 children had a parent deported between 1997 and 2007, and about 88,000 of those children were U.S. citizens, with about half of those being under the age of 5 at the time they lost a parent.

It’s not a pretty picture. The fact that Emanuel can be tagged as being apathetic toward such issues is not something he should be proud of.

BUT COULD IT be that Emanuel’s apathy toward the Latino population on a national level for the past two years will come back to bite him in the nalgas in his bid for city mayor? Could the Latino vote wind up providing just enough support that it denies Emanuel that desired “50 percent, plus one” in terms of votes he needs next week in order to avoid having to participate in a run-off election on April 5.

To me, that was the most interesting part of the Chicago Tribune poll from last week – the one that had Emanuel at 49 percent, with Chico solidly in second place ahead of Carol Moseley-Braun.

When one looks at the ethnic breakdown of would-be voters who were surveyed, one finds that 56 percent of the Latino voter bloc is giving its support to a Latino candidate – with Chico getting more support than Miguel del Valle by roughly a 2 to 1 ratio (38 percent for Chico compared to 18 percent for del Valle).

That could very well be because Chico is showing enough signs of being competitive politically that many Latino voters are getting on board with the “winner” (or at least the one they perceive as being the likely victor).

THAT ALSO IS what I think of the fact that 34 percent of Latino would-be voters were willing to ignore the immigration issue “controversy” and say they will back Emanuel. They want to be behind the candidate whom they think will win (and would be in a position to give them consideration when he gets elected to office).
EMANUEL: Unable to relax

So maybe what we have amongst Latino voters is a split between those backing Chico and those backing Emanuel, with the latter trying to portray himself as the candidate who can appeal to all the voter blocs that comprise this city (that Tribune poll had him at 55 percent support among white people and 48 percent among African-American people, along with his Latino support).

But would that Latino support be stronger had he been willing to expend even a little political capital toward immigration (an issue of growing importance to all Latinos because it often shows an individual’s attitude toward the ethnic group as a whole), rather than appearing to be apathetic.

Which makes me wonder if Rahm would be resting a little bit easier going into this final week before Election Day if there had been even a slight effort toward immigration reform?


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