No longer a backburner issue, immigration is roiling the presidential contest as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney seek to court the nation's swelling Hispanic population. The outcome could influence political battle lines and shape American politics for generations.
By week's end, both candidates will address the same Latino political convention in Florida, showcasing contrasting political ideologies at a pivotal time. The Supreme Court is about to render judgment on a get-tough Arizona law, and just last week the Democratic president announced plans to ease deportation rules for some children of undocumented immigrants.
With Election Day less than five months away, Hispanic voters are energized and paying close attention, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which hosts this week's convention.
The stakes are high not only for states with larger Hispanic populations such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, but for a growing number of other battlegrounds – Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, among them – where even a modest shift among Latino voters could be significant. The United States' Latino population surged from about 35 million in 2000 to 50 million in 2010, according to the Census Bureau.
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