Hispanic leaders divided on President Obama

(CBS News) Because Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the US population, will play a big role in November’s presidential election, leaders from the Hispanic community reinforced the notion that they are not a monolithic voting bloc.

The issue of immigration reform proved highly divisive during CBS News’ Google+ Hangout on “Face the Nation.”

Gabriela Domencain, director of Hispanic press for the Obama Campaign, told host John Dickerson that the president’s stance on immigration is one reason he sees strong support from the Hispanic community.

“Hispanics know the president is on their side. They know that he’s fighting for comprehensive immigration reform and for the Dream Act, and that’s why we’re seeing so much support for our candidate,” Domencain said.

Bettina Inclan, Domencain’s counterpart at the Republican National Committee, disagreed, claiming that “the principles and policies of President Barack Obama have devastated Hispanic households.

“What we have seen is that one after another of these promises made to Latinos across the country have been broken by this President,” Inclan said, pointing to the lack of action on immigration reform during the president’s term.

Jennifer Sevilla Korn, director of the Hispanic Leadership Network, says Mr. Obama “absolutely was not committed” to passing immigration reform in his first term.

[Also on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told host Bob Schieffer that immigration will be a “big issue” in 2012.]

The remaining panelists, all of whom voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, feel he hasn’t lived up to his campaign promises on immigration.

“I’m in the middle on this one,” said actor and activist Esai Morales. “I was looking forward to a lot more immigration reform from our current president… where’s that change that was promised?”

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, agreed: “I’m one of those Democrats who has been deeply disappointed in Obama during his first term,” Sharry told Dickerson. “But on the other hand, you know he’s not that into immigrants, but the other guy wants to drive them all out of the country.”

According to the majority of our Hangout participants, President Obama is still the more appealing option for Hispanic voters – though neither party won their strong endorsement. However, Governor Romney appears to have a greater challenge to attract the Latino vote.

The panelists reached a consensus on one issue: The term “Hispanic” is unfairly characterized as monolithic.

Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of LatinoRebels.com, says he lives in “both worlds,” identifying himself as a Puerto Rican and a Bostonian.

“I think we should be thinking about Hispanics, Latinos – whatever you want to call us – as American voters,” Varela told Dickerson, echoing the sentiments of the group at large

This report can be found on CBSNews

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