Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Will Castro win over Latino skeptics?

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
September 5, 2012 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gives the keynote address Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gives the keynote address Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's speech inspired, energized Latinos
  • He says the speech shined when Castro talked about his family, culture and community
  • But arrests of 10 Latinos protesting Obama immigration policies tarnished mood, he says
  • He says Latinos support Obama, but their enthusiasm is waning over immigration record

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) -- As you probably heard, Julian Castro's keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention was historic.

It marked the first time that a Latino had ever delivered the signature address at that event, and the fact that the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio was invited to do so by the Democratic Party -- and his twin brother, Texas state Rep. and congressional candidate Joaquin Castro, was chosen to introduce him -- was a show of respect for America's largest minority.

As we Latinos might say: "Ya era tiempo" -- "It was about time." A majority of Latinos have voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election dating back to 1960. That's 13 elections, loyally casting votes for strong candidates and weak ones. Over the last half-century, a lot of Democrats have owed their political careers to voters with names such as Gutierrez, Rodriguez or Morales.

Opinion: What Julian Castro can do for Obama

The speech itself had its golden nuggets -- most of them revolving around family, culture, community. It also had its lead trinkets -- policy talk about "investing" in creating opportunity that Republicans will dismiss as more tax-and-spend rhetoric that was a poor fit for someone being marketed as a leader of the future.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

The gold sounded like this:

"My grandmother spent her whole life working as a maid, a cook and a babysitter, barely scraping by, but still working hard to give my mother, her only child, a chance in life, so that my mother could give my brother and me an even better one. ... And I can still remember her, every morning as Joaquin and I walked out the door to school, making the sign of the cross behind us, saying, 'Que dios los bendiga.' 'May God bless you. ..."

And this: "My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people's houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.

Castro brothers: Democratic Party stars
Castro: 'American dream' for generations
Watch full speech of Julian Castro
La Convención Demócrata

"And while she may be proud of me tonight, I've got to tell you, Mom, I'm even more proud of you. Thank you, Mom. Today, my beautiful wife, Erica, and I are the proud parents of a 3-year-old little girl, Carina Victoria, named after my grandmother. A couple of Mondays ago was her first day of pre-K. As we dropped her off, we walked out of the classroom, and I found myself whispering to her, as was once whispered to me, 'Que dios te bendiga.' May God bless you. ..."

But given what had transpired outside the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte a few hours earlier, Castro's speech was also bittersweet.

Ten people who identified themselves as illegal immigrants, part of a national caravan dubbed the "Undocubus," were arrested outside the arena for blocking an intersection and refusing to disperse. They were there to protest President Barack Obama's immigration policies.

And because the Obama administration's signature immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities, requires local police to submit to federal authorities the fingerprints of arrestees whom they suspect might be in the country illegally, those 10 people could be deported. They have names such as Estevez, Carrasco, Castellanos, Diaz, Sanchez and Torres.

There is no question that Castro did Obama an enormous favor Tuesday night by inspiring and energizing Latino voters, a majority of whom tell pollsters that they like the president personally but disapprove of his immigration policies -- most notably, a record number of deportations now approaching 1.5 million.

For Latinos, those deportations represent more than numbers on a spreadsheet. They represent hundreds of thousands of families that have been torn apart and divided across a border, and thousands of U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants placed in foster care. Obama broke the first rule of dealing with Latinos: Don't mess with the family.

Although the latest polls show Obama leading Mitt Romney by more than a 2-to-1 margin with Latinos, the president has developed an enthusiasm gap with those voters. And there are really two ways for Obama to "lose" the Latino vote -- if 40% of Latinos vote for Romney, or if a large chunk of Obama voters are so unenthusiastic about his record in office that they just stay home. The first probably won't happen. The second just might. A new Zogby poll found more than 14% of Latino voters are undecided about whom to vote for.

Recently, Obama announced a new policy at the Department of Homeland Security where illegal immigrants who meet certain qualifications -- less than 31 years of age, no criminal record, came to the United States before the age of 16, etc. -- can apply for two years of "deferred action" so they're not deported. But not everyone is eligible, and many are too skeptical to participate. Hence, the protest.

The good news for the Obama campaign is that Latinos will not soon forget the emotional words Castro delivered Tuesday night. The bad news is they won't forget the president's dreadful immigration record, which made the speech so necessary.

And that's the bittersweet part. Inside the arena, Latinos heard a beautiful story that reminded us how far we've come. Outside the arena, we witnessed an ugly reality that tells us how far we still have to go.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette Jr.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1918 GMT (0318 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says as violence claims three U.S. doctors, the temptation is to despair, but aid to Afghanistan has made it a much better place
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says in California, Asian-Americans are against the use of racial criteria in public colleges.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Heidi Schlumpf says if the Pope did tell an Argentinian woman married to a divorced man that she could take Communion, it may signify a softening of church rules on the divorced and sacraments
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Norcross, Georgia, Chief of Police Warren Summers says the new law that allows guns in bars, churches and schools will have unintended dangerous consequences.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Mel Robbins says social media is often ruled by haters, and people can be brutally honest.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1644 GMT (0044 HKT)
Mike Downey says the golf purists can take a hike; the game needs radical changes to win back fans and players.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1737 GMT (0137 HKT)
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT