Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Obama and Indocumentados: Straight to the Source

In a sea of fascinating storylines having to do with the 2008 presidential race, I think Barack Obama\’s troubles with Latino voters has to be among the most interesting. According to some reports, Obama lost the Hispanic vote in places like California and Arizona by nearly 40 percent. Yet nobody has really provided a decent explanation as to why that might be the case. Most media reports gloss over any real reasons, because they may be afraid at what they find. In fact, by reporting that \”Hispanic voters won\’t vote for Obama\” without providing a rationale, it really stains the reputation of Latinos and brands them as bigots.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, himself of Hispanic origin, took a weak stab at it by saying Latino voters appreciated the fact that the Clintons appointed Hispanics to cabinet positions. This, of course, is complete nonsense – if there\’s one trait that brings Americans of all nationalities together, it is a complete lack of knowledge of anything regarding cabinet appointees.

Last night, after my Obama moment, my buddy and I went to have a few beers. As is our custom, we left the bar at about 11:00 and headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant on Madison\’s west side. (Here\’s a hint – you are able to obtain a burrito as big as your head there – provided your head isn\’t freakishly large.) As we sat down to inhale our steak burritos, I happened to catch a glimpse of a \”Voz Latina\” newspaper. On the front page, there was a huge picture of Barack Obama, accompanied by this story:

Obama: Indocumentados no son responsables de problemas economicos

\”Atributir esos problemas a los inmigrantes es buscar un chivo expiatorio\”

LOS ANGELES – El precandidato democrata Barack Obama sostuvo el jueves que la desocupacion y la inseguridad economica no son generados por la presencia de indocumentadoes en el pais.

I took three years of Spanish in high school, so I can pretty much get what that is saying – Obama is reaching out to Hispanic voters by telling them illegal immigrants aren\’t the cause of America\’s economic problems. But it was bugging me that I couldn\’t understand exactly what it was saying. For all I knew, Obama made this statement about illegal immigrants, then started juggling flaming meatballs. So to figure out what the article said, I asked for help.

I walked up to the two young men at the front of the store – one was working the grill and one was working the register. I asked the guy at the register if he could read the first part of it for me \”en ingles.\” He chuckled a little, then looked at the front page of the paper that I handed him. It was clear he didn\’t speak much ingles himself. He started out, \”uhhhhhh…. inmigracion…,\” and then he stopped. He started pointing to the picture of Obama and saying \”NO, NO, NO!\” I asked him if he liked Obama, and he again said \”NO, NO, NO!\” (Of course, he may have been doing an Amy Winehouse impersonation.)

He repeatedly pointed to Obama\’s picture, and started saying \”No inmigracion.\” His buddy cooking the burritos agreed with him. He then pointed to a picture of George W. Bush on the page, and said \”Yes.\”

It didn\’t take too long to decipher what he was saying. He didn\’t like Obama because he thought Obama was too weak on immigration. These guys (who essentially admitted to us that their legal status was, um…. questionable) had come to this country and made a decent living for themselves. Now, they are all for shutting the borders down, knowing there\’s always going to be a poor Mexican worker willing to do their job for less money. And they really don\’t want the competition. That\’s why they both had such a favorable opinion of George W. Bush – his plan let them stay here, and eliminated the competition from the South.

I asked one of the guys (in my broken Spanglish) if he had any familia back in Mexico that he wants to come to the U.S. He said he did, but they can stay there as long as he sends them money. Basically, he doesn\’t want to upset the system he has going for him right now. He also said that Mexico is on the rise, and that soon all the white Americans will want to live there. He mentioned that all the Americans that do live there have really big houses, and that he doesn\’t like that.

All in all, those guys were really honest and forthright about their views on inmigracion. And they seemed ecstatic that someone would actually care what they thought. But our discussion was fascinating, in that it started to explain some of the Hispanic dislike of Obama – something the media might pick up if they would just go ask regular Latinos what they think. 

Oh, and the burrito – delicioso.

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