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Poll: Latinos disapprove of Obama's handling of deportation, yet favor Democrat over Romney and Perry

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 28 2011 5:37 p.m. MST

Nearly 60 percent of Latinos disapprove of the Obama administration's handling of deportation of unauthorized immigrants, a new national poll of more than 1,200 Latino adults reveals.

Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 60 percent of Latinos disapprove of the Obama administration's handling of deportation of unauthorized immigrants, a new national poll of more than 1,200 Latino adults reveals.

Deportations have reached record levels — an average of 400,000 a year since 2009 under President Obama's administration. This is nearly double the annual average of President George W. Bush's first term. Meanwhile, arrests of border crossers by the U.S. Border Patrol have declined more than 70 percent since 2005.

Local advocates and political observers say the results of the national survey are hardly surprising because many Latinos perceive that few of Obama's campaign promises to fix the nation's immigration issue have been realized.

"They feel betrayed by President Obama," said Dr. Cesar Diaz, whose suburban medical practice serves a diverse Hispanic population. "While I'm not that into politics, what I've been told is the reason he got the Latino vote was promises he made about changing the status of immigration."

Attorney Aaron Tarin, whose practice includes criminal defense and immigration law, said the majority of his Hispanic clients in Utah are disappointed in the Obama administration's failure to overhaul the nation's broken immigration system. 

"Most are shocked to find out that deportations are at an all time high with this administration," said Tarin.

"Those of us deportation defense attorneys have certainly seen a surge of deportations in the last three years with ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) aggressively seeking out even those who have not committed serious crimes."

However, the 2011 National Survey of Latinos also found that Hispanics prefer the first-term Democratic president to Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry by wide margins in the survey released Wednesday.

Many Latinos find the campaign rhetoric intended to court "arch-conservative" delegates or voters more apt to participate in party caucuses or primary elections to be offensive, said community activist Tony Yapias.

"At this stage, they're just trying to get the votes they need so they want to sound as extreme as possible," Yapias said.

Perry, for instance, urged a more compassionate approach. "He went downhill from that time and hasn't been able to recoup," Yapias said.

While the eventual Republican nominee will likely moderate his or her position on immigration, the damage may have been done by the time the general election rolls around. Yapias predicts the general election may come down to battleground states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, each of which has a significant block of Latino voters.

The poll otherwise showed that Hispanic registered voters strongly identify with the Democratic party. Two thirds said they lean toward the Democratic party while 20 percent indicated they identify with the GOP.

"At the end of the day, who are you going to vote for? You're still going to vote for Obama. They (Republicans) don't give you much of a choice," he said.

The national poll surveyed 1,220 Latino adults, 557 whom said they are registered to vote. The poll, conducted for the Pew Hispanic Center, was conducted in English and Spanish on cellular as well as land-line phones. The poll has a margin of error of =/- 3.6 percent.

The poll identified jobs, education and health care as top issues for Hispanic registered voters. Immigration ranked below taxes and federal budget deficit as key concerns, the poll said.

"For Latinos, (the key concerns) are no different than the rest of the population. We've still got to pay the rent or the mortgage or the car payment. They've have to make ends meet," Yapias said.

According to the results, 91 percent of Latinos polled support the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would permit young adults who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children to become legal residents if they go to college or serve in the military. 

Meanwhile, 84 percent of those polled said unauthorized immigrants should also be eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges or universities.

Diaz said the two approaches make sense because it is foolish to squander human potential and the United States needs more educated workers.

"If your next generation is educated, it's going to be more productive for your system," Diaz said.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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