How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Yes, a Cuban American at the DNC (Video)

As far as historic moments during national political conventions go, the second night of the Democratic National Convention yesterday racked up a couple of them. Number one was what is perhaps the most public appearance ever by an out-of-the-closet undocumented immigrant, 27-year-old Benita Veliz, a college graduate and former high school valedictorian brought to the U.S. as a child who spoke of having "to live almost my entire life knowing I could be deported."

That one took it away. But for people who follow such things, there was another minor milestone, this one involving the speaker Benitez introduced, former TV talk show host Cristina Saralegui.

As the Associated Press pointed out in a piece yesterday, there is a generally accepted blue-red divide between two of the nation's largest Latin American immigrant groups, Mexicans (the largest, who traditionally lean left) and Cubans (the third largest, who traditionally lean right). There is also a stark immigration policy divide. Mexicans who arrive illegally are typically deported if caught, while most Cubans who make it to U.S. soil can legalize thanks to policies rooted in the early days of the Fidel Castro regime. The rise to prominence this year of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, especially as rumors circulated that the Cuban American senator might become a running mate for Mitt Romney, further fueled discussion of the political differences.

The reality is more subtle. Even in South Florida, Cuban American generational shifts have been afoot for some time, and this has combined with immigration from elsewhere in Latin America to make the state's Latino constituency more politically diverse than in the past. Still, it was a break from the expected last night when Saralegui, more or less the Cubana version of Oprah Winfrey, delivered a speech in support of President Obama in her distinctly Miami way. 

Saralegui, who has appeared in Spanish-language Obama campaign spots, is of course not the only prominent non-Republican Cuban American. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, for example, a co-sponsor of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, is the son of Cuban immigrants raised in Union City.

But that's a long way from South Florida. Saralegui is from Miami, where the (unedited) comments under a Miami Herald story from June that reported her endorsement of Obama provide a window into this particular blue-red split. In the comments, Earthwat wrote:


She can support whomever she wants but the majority of Cubans will vote for Romney

No so, Meteorite countered:
The majority of Cubans who would vote for Romney are now dead.  There are many that will not because the jig is up for Republicants.

The back-and-forth goes on for nearly 400 comments - read the entire exchange here. In any case, Saralegui does make for an interesting messenger.
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