December 5, 2008

Barack Obama’s triumph is seen by many as a triumph for minorities in the United States

By Mariana Martínez

Barack Obama’s triumph is seen by many as a triumph for minorities, amongst them, Hispanics that have hope and high expectations for his next administration.

But the hard-hitting financial crisis, the war in Iraq and strong pressure from the base of the Republican Party could put the ability to keep his campaign promises through a very hard test.

Most political analysts agree that the vote of 7.2 million Hispanic voters made Obama’s victory possible, and now, —along with community organizations and local politicians—, they expect to send him the bill for his triumph.

Guillermo Rosete is a 70-year-old restaurant employee in Chula Vista, where he has lived for more than ten years. He just became a citizen this year, in the hopes of Obama winning the presidency.

“Maybe now that we changed parties, things will be better” he says,” I’m hopeful… I want many things to change, especially about immigration, I hope things are better for my fellow Mexicans, hope things are better for those who have such a hard time.”

Enrique Morones, Border Angels founder tells of his time as a volunteer for Obama’s campaign; his many phone calls, going door to door and working hard to bring the Hispanic vote to his campaign.

Now him, and many other activists are expecting a speedy immigration reform.

“We have so much hope for our new president… He wants to pass this reform thru Congress, and then the Senate and then, he will sign it,” says Morones.

But activists are not the only ones putting their faith in the new president, Democrat congress people, —who have felt unattended by the Bush administration—, are now hoping to find a willing ear in the White House.

Bob Filner, congressman for the 51st District in Chula Vista says he is working with other border town Democrats and San Diego city council members to ask the new administration to stop the construction of the second border fence.

“This is simply a bad use of our money” Filner explains, “It goes against what every American ought to stand for.”

According to Patricia Escamilla PhD, Public Administration Studies researcher for Colegio de la Frontera Norte, —a Mexican think tank in Tijuana— it is not politically savvy to put so much pressure in just one issue, even before the president’s team is fully assembled.

“The situation is critical,” the social researcher says, “The financial and economic turmoil requires immediate attention, more attention than the immigration reform.”

A first step in order for Hispanics to gain more political power, would be the inclusion of a good dose of Latinos in Obama’s cabinet.

In his transition team, Obama has former Secretary of Energy, Federico Peña and Mexican Novel Price winner Mario Molina. Bill Richardson has been named as Secretary of Commerce, a position that would make him the highest ranking official in Obama’s administration.

Escamilla warns this doesn’t mean an “automatic pass” of the Hispanic agenda to the presidential agenda.

“Obama will more than likely stop the immigration raids and the construction of the border fence, he is in favor of increasing availability of visas and as a senator, he voted in favor of the DREAM act,” she explains, “but it will be very hard for him to take on the issue of the immigration reform, due to the high political cost it represents.”

Recent polls conducted by National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) amongst Latino voters, immigration reform ranks fourth in their list of priorities when going to the polls.

“Even for Hispanics, the main concern is the economic situation,” says doctor Escamilla, “what are the issues affecting Latinos? Immigration reform is not a priority, the priority are more economic opportunities and access to health services… better living conditions in general.”

But Morones is persistent and its sure, for the millions of Hispanic voters who became citizens just to vote for the first time and see an immigration reform, that is their number one priority.

“This time, if the reform doesn’t pass the first year of his presidency, or second year at the most, we are simply not going to be behind him on the next elections,” he warns.

For now, all along the US/Mexico border, the voices are strong, demanding a stop to the immigration raids, the building of the second fence and a good immigration reform, priorities not only to border town population but for the whole country.

Now, there is little to do but wait, until the new administration takes charge, January 20th, when the president elect takes command.

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