They may be undocumented, naturalized, or first- second- or third-generation citizens, but if one thing unites many Hispanics in Colorado it's their discontent with the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming out of the Republican primary.
To David Ramírez, a fourth-generation Hispanic in Colorado, the tone and proposals of the Republican candidates on immigration are "insensitive, insincere and insulting." And they're a decisive factor in how he plans to vote. "The whole issue is very important to all Hispanics. It doesn't matter if you're Mexican, Mexican-American, South American, if you were naturalized or fourth-generation. We're all part of the same history and this issue affects us all," he said. He called Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" idea "bizarre."
"It doesn't make any sense. Proposing that ignores the contribution that millions of immigrants make to our economy, and is dismissive of the Latino vote," he added.
The tone and policies on immigration can be so important that they've led some Hispanic Republicans to switch parties.
Olivia Mendoza, executive director of the Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO), and her family were legalized with the amnesty signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Her parents remained loyal Republicans "until 2008, when they were watching television and John McCain who came out talking about his opposition to immigration reform, changing his position completely."
"For Latinos, an insult is a very personal thing," Mendoza declared.
Along with the economy and jobs, immigration is one of the most important issues to Colorado's Latino voters. In 2008, Latinos in Colorado gave 61% of their support to Barack Obama, swinging the state to the Democratic column after victories there by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
Unlike 2008, Romney lost the Republican caucuses in Colorado on February 7, but he remains in the lead in the battle for the Republican nomination and the opportunity to face Obama in November.
Once again, Colorado is looking like one of the key swing states where the Latino vote might make the difference in a tight race.
President Obama is counting on the support of Latino voters in Colorado. Latinos represent 21% of the state's population, and 13% of its eligible voters; a plurality are registered Democrats.
The question is whether, in November, they'll show up at the polls in sufficient numbers to guarantee that Colorado remains a blue state.
The economy and immigration, in that order, are the central issues for Latino
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