Hispanic leaders divided on President Obama

(CBS News) Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the US population, and it is widely acknowledged that they will play a central role in determining the outcome of November's presidential election. But in a recent Google Hangout sponsored by "Face the Nation," leaders from the Hispanic community reinforced the notion that Latinos do not comprise a monolithic voting bloc.

The issue of immigration reform proved highly divisive during CBS News' Google Hangout. Portions of the conversation aired on Sunday's Face the Nation.

Gabriela Domencain, Director of Hispanic press for the Obama Campaign, told host John Dickerson that President's Obama's stance on immigration is one reason he receives 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 first term.

Jennifer Sevilla Korn, director of the Hispanic Leadership Network, agreed, telling Dickerson that the president "absolutely was not committed" to passing immigration reform in his first four years.

[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.

"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, echoed Morales' frustration: "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...he's not that into immigrants, but the other guy wants to drive them all out of the country."

According to the majority of Hangout participants, President Obama is still the more appealing option for Hispanic voters - though neither presidential candidate won their strong endorsement.

The panelists did reach consensus on the fact that the term "Hispanic" is unfairly monolithic.

Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of LatinoRebels.com, says he lives in two different worlds, identifying himself as both 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.

Stay tuned for "Face the Nation"'s next Google Hangout, when CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Norah O'Donnell will host a conversation on female voters.

  • Emily Bradley

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