I don't want to spoil anyone's holiday mood, but as we approach President Barack Obama's second anniversary in office, it's time to say that he has not fulfilled some of his key promises to U.S. Hispanics and Latin America.
Immigration: Last week, the Obama administration failed to overcome Republican opposition in the Senate to the Dream Act, which would have given citizenship to tens of thousands of college students or soldiers in the U.S. military who were brought to the country as infants by undocumented immigrants.
It was the easiest immigration measure to pass, because it was the one that made most sense from a national security, economic and humanitarian stand.
Yet, after passing the House, the measure died in the Senate in what Obama said Wednesday was ``maybe my biggest disappointment.''
Granted, it was Republican senators who blocked it. But many Hispanic leaders wonder whether Obama spent enough time and effort to get it passed: On the same week, Obama managed to get enough Republican support in the Senate to repeal the military's ban on openly gay troops, and days later he mustered enough Republican Senators to pass the New START nuclear arms treaty.
On the broader issue of a comprehensive immigration reform that would seek to both secure the U.S. borders and provide a legal path to legalization to about 11 million undocumented immigrants, the president did not meet his campaign promise to make it a ``top priority'' of his first year in office, or of his second year.
And after the Republican takeover of the House in the Nov. 2 congressional elections, comprehensive immigration reform has become pretty much a dead issue. The new Congress that will take over in January includes more opponents of legal and illegal immigration than the previous one, and anti-immigration zealots are scheduled to become chairs of key congressional committees overseeing immigration issues.
Free trade: The Obama administration announced recently that it will submit to Congress the pending U.S. free trade deal with South Korea, but gave no indication that it will do the same with the pending free trade deals with Colombia or Panama anytime soon.
Supporters of the free trade agreements wanted all three deals to be submitted together, to overcome AFL-CIO labor unions' opposition to them. Obama is apparently considering his trade union supporters more important than his Latino voters, many free trade supporters suspect.
Ties with Latin America: Obama, who had promised to forge ``a new alliance of the Americas'' to end ``years of negligence'' toward the region, has not done either. Among other things, he failed to meet his campaign vow to appoint a Special U.S. Envoy to the Americas, and to upgrade the 33-country Summit of the Americas to turn it into an annual event, instead of a meeting taking place every three or four years.
My opinion: To be fair, the Obama administration has done some good things on the Latin American front, including pursuing a more multilateral foreign policy, standing up for democracy during the Honduras coup and Ecuador's police uprising -- despite the fact that it amounted to defending anti-U.S. demagogues -- and expanding family travel and cultural exchanges with Cuba.
Nice, but hardly the grand new vision for the hemisphere that Obama promised.
And on the U.S. Hispanic front, Obama, who won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 elections, has helped millions of Latinos with his healthcare laws and extended unemployment insurance. But he is making a big mistake by taking Hispanic voters for granted.
He may be right in thinking that Hispanics will not migrate to the Republican Party, which over the past two years has increasingly come across as the party of Hispanic-allergic, anti-immigration zealots. But Obama may be forgetting that Latino voters may do something just as harmful to his reelection chances in 2012 -- stay at home.
As the new census figures released this week show, the U.S. population has grown the most in heavily Hispanic-populated states, such as Texas and Florida. If Obama doesn't do more for Hispanics, he will not be able to get out the Latino vote and get reelected.
His New Year's resolution should be reconnecting with U.S. Hispanics, and with Latin America.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Andres Oppenheimer is a Miami Herald syndicated columnist and a member of The Miami Herald team that won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. He also won the 1999 Maria Moors Cabot Award, the 2001 King of Spain prize, and the 2005 Emmy Suncoast award. He is the author of Castro's Final Hour; Bordering on Chaos, on Mexico's crisis; Cronicas de heroes y bandidos, Ojos vendados, Cuentos Chinos and most recently of Saving the Americas. E-mail Andres at firstname.lastname@example.org. Live chat with Oppenheimer every Thursday at 1 p.m. at The Miami Herald.