Actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama predicts that Latinos will back candidates without ties to either major political party if President Obama fails to act on immigration this year.
Valderrama, a self-described Obama supporter, called the president's decision to delay executive action on immigration policy a "dark day" for Latinos who voted to re-elect him. Republicans and Democrats share blame for promising immigration reform to Latino voters without delivering, which could doom their chances of winning over voters in upcoming elections, he said.
"If they don't do something by the end of the year, I'll be completely honest, I think everyone—from Republicans to Hillary [Clinton]—is going to have a tough time building any kind of traction [with Latinos]," Valderrama said. The actor, who played Fez on "That 70s Show," spoke with Fusion at an event sponsored by the non-partisan outreach group Voto Latino in San Antonio this weekend. He is a longtime supporter of Voto Latino and has worked to raise awareness about enrolling in Obamacare.
"The Latino community will say, 'OK cool, so I guess we should vote independent then,'" he added.
Still, Valderrama's comments highlight anger among Latino activists about the delay and underscore the political stakes for the White House as it considers executive actions designed to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Obama's decision to put off policy changes until after November's midterm elections could help protect red-state Democrats in tough re-election races. But Latino and immigrant-rights activists have stepped up pressure on Democrats to hold Obama to his word to act before the end of the year.
A group of activists confronted Hillary Clinton in Iowa on Sunday over Obama's decision to delay. The Democrats' presumptive 2016 front-runner sidestepped the issue, saying that "I think we have to elect more Democrats."
Valderrama said politicians need to stop taking Latinos for granted. Both parties "know for a fact they can't win any election without the Latino vote," he said. Referring to immigration reform, he said candidates "continue to dangle the carrot in front of us" but once they are elected to office, "we keep getting pushed later and later later. That can never happen."
Latinos have soured on Democrats and remain dubious of Republicans, according to recent polls. Less than half (47 percent) of registered voters approve of Obama's job performance, down from 62 percent in April 2013, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo survey. Only 13 percent feel "very positive" about the Democratic Party and 11 percent feel the same way about the GOP.
Despite voters' disillusionment, Valderrama said the answer is not to sit out the midterm elections. The actor is promoting a massive voter registration push in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month.
"It's not right to complain about anything or be discouraged about anything when we're not telling our neighbors, we're not telling our entire family to register to vote," he said. "You have zero, zero reason to be discouraged."
Fusion's interview with Valderrama and Voto Latino co-founder Rosario Dawson from June.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.