Column No. 4351 Length: 700 words
PRESIDENT OBAMA: HOPE, HYPE OR HYPOCRISY?
By Esther J. Cepeda
Hispanic Link News Service/ Scripps Howard
Barack Obama, our great brown hope, where will you lead us?
Now that the freshman U.S. senator from my home state of Illinois has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2008 presidential race by forming an exploratory committee, many of the black, Hispanic and Asian voters throughout the country who’ve actually heard of him are titillated by the possibility that a new shade of president might actually take the Oval office.
Topping a list of previous presidential contenders populated by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Obama, with his Hawaiian, African-American, and Caucasian roots, has a certain appeal to Hispanic voters looking for a candidate who’ll take up our unique causes. Chief among them is fair and reasonable immigration law reform.
While Obama, our new national “rock star,” had a decent voting record in the Illinois Senate on several issues important to the estimated 1.5 million Hispanics residing there, that sensitivity hasn’t translated to his choices in the U.S. Senate where 44 million Hispanics nationwide need his understanding.
Obama famously voted in favor of last October’s mostly symbolic but costly Secure Fence Act, walling us off from our neighbor Mexico
There was also a bipartisan immigration reform bill that included a path to legal residency for a productive law-abiding, longer-established portion of undocumented U.S.
He backed another bill that could have, among other regressive elements, turned religious group members into felons for feeding or providing shelter to abused undocumented women and their children.
In yet another move to appease nativists, our senator gave his “yea” to an amendment that established English as our “national unifying language.”
Not exactly the type of record that inspires confidence in the guy who is promising “real change” that “a different kind of politics” can deliver.
On Chicago Mexico
So far, among Chicago
It’s possible that some are waiting for Obama to clarify the issues he’ll run on for the presidency. Others are asking, what’s the alternative?
Four days after Obama made his move, Hillary Clinton, whom the polls show as his main competitor in the Democratic primaries, officially entered the presidential contest, declaring she’s “in and in to win.” But her voting record on the Senate’s 2006 immigration legislation proposals, as well as the English-as-a-unifying-language amendment, is identical to that of Obama.
U.S. Rep. Luís Gutiérrez, a Chicago Democrat and leader in pressing for comprehensive reform, says he knows what’s going on behind the scenes. I spoke with him in the immediate aftermath of the media frenzy over Obama’s presidential exploration committee announcement.
“I’ve had many conversations with Barack and I think he heard loudly and clearly from many in the community about the position he took on the border fence,” Gutierrez told me, expanding, “He’s had extensive dialogue, he hasn’t arrogantly walked away from the conversation, and he is taking steps to address it.”
What steps? That remains to be seen.
We’re waiting, Mr. Senator, are you with us or against us?
(Esther J. Cepeda is a Chicago-based journalist. She may be reached at xxxxxxxx.)