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Latinos Become California's Largest Demographic Though Political Clout Lags

This month Latinos will make up 39% of most populous US state, but group still struggles to convert numbers into results.

US-born children traveled to the White House with their undocumented parents to demonstrate against recent deportations. ,Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It is a demographic milestone signalling the changing face of America: this month, Latinos will overtake whites to become California’s largest racial/ethnic group.

They will officially make up 39% of the country’s most populous state, edging past the 38.8% who are white non-Hispanic, and dwarfing the Asian American and African American communities.

Demographic ascendance is producing a fast growing ethnic voting bloc nationwide. The Latino electorate, which cast ballots in record numbers in the 2012 presidential election, is expected to double within a generation. “An awakened giant”, declared the Pew Research Center.

So why, then, are Latinos taking a political hammering? Immigration reform, a priority for the community, is flatlining in Washington. Meanwhile the number of people deported under President Barack Obama is set to reach two million next month, far outstripping deportations during the Bush administration.

Frustrated activists and detainees are marching and fasting to protest what they call abandonment by Democrats and Republicans. Janet Murguía, head of the National Council of La Raza, the country’s oldest and largest Hispanic advocacy group, recently underlined the alienation by calling Obama, a supposed ally, “the deporter-in-chief”.

Stung by the criticism, last week the president met with Latino lawmakers and ordered immigration officials to review deportation practices to see if they could be “more humanely” enforced “within the confines of the law”. The move signalled a possible easing, but fell well short of activists’ central demand, that Obama use executive action to slow deportations.

Dozens of U.S.-born children from across the country traveled to the White House with their undocumented parents to march and demonstrate against recent deportations

For all the talk of ascendance, Latinos are learning a harsh truth: the “browning of America”, a phenomenon trumpeted for decades, has yielded slow, uneven results. Hispanic political clout lags at the local, state and national levels.

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