In Spanish, the word cariño literally means “affectionate.” Cariño is used to describe warmth and care, but it is also often used as a pet name for your child or partner, for example, mi cariño/mi cariña. So in the Latino community where the word cariño is an important part of the vernacular, some might be surprised that Latinos have so warmly embraced a “cool and detached” President like Obama. This has been in large part due to his commitment to fixing immigration. However, the President’s recent lack of cariño towards the Latino community coupled with his inability to deliver on immigration reform has both his approval numbers dropping among Latinos and Spanish language media critics asking “Who’s in charge in Washington?” Also, his once masterful speeches are now being called nothing more than “cheap and easy rhetoric.”

Today, a story in Politico reveals this turning tide against President Obama in the Spanish language media. The article quotes several leading Latino journalists who are voicing their frustration with the President’s failure to deliver on his promises of reform. Most notably, Jorge Ramos, the “most trusted man in the Hispanic media,” says Obama has a “serious credibility problem.” He adds “so many Latinos feel there is a lack of leadership, and he is not fighting for immigration reform with the same intensity that he fought for health care reform.”

So what can Obama do to show the Latino Community some cariño? Well, he could start with an hour-long prime-time special with Jorge Ramos to explain, in all frankness, what stumbling blocks he has faced in terms of getting immigration reform to the finish line. He could also explain how much he needs Congress’ partnership and how Ramos’ viewers need to get involved in order to make it a reality. While the President has been on Barbara Walter’s prime time show The View, he might also try a sit-down on The Cristina Show—Spanish-language television’s equivalent to Oprah.

In addition to media appearances, the President can rebuild bridges through administrative action. He can start by making sure that the $600 million dollars in border enforcement money that Congress will send to his desk this week is spent responsibly. In fact, he can use the $600 million legislation signing as the beginning of his real campaign to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality. He can also continue to direct DHS to do everything in its power under the law to minimize the impact of our broken immigration system on families and undocumented youth and put some real White House muscle behind the DREAM Act.

Perhaps from the President’s perspective, he feels he has done a lot to show his commitment to immigration reform. He has dedicated time and energy to the issue, has plenty of staff at work on immigration, made a thoughtful speech at American University and placed phone calls to potential Republican supporters. However, Latinos have yet to see the kind of enthusiasm and full-speed-ahead approach to immigration that the President lent to healthcare reform. Where is the immigration summit where all stakeholders are present and ready to commit to working together? How about dedicating more than 37 words to immigration in the next state of the union address? Where is the Rahm Emanuel-style locker room arm-twisting on immigration that has been so effectively used to win passage of other bills? Jorge Ramos has made it pretty clear that the Latino community has come through for the President, but now, he needs to show the Latino community some true leadership and cariño in return.

Photo by cjdavis.