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Will black voters grouse over Obama move to aid young illegal immigrants?

Obama's move to give work permits to certain illegal immigrants may not sit well with job-hungry African-Americans. Some analysts say it could hurt him among his most faithful constituency: black voters. Others say no way.  

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Beyond that, she notes, Obama’s arguments when he announced the new policy are allied with the philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr. and that of many black church leaders. “I would also argue that African-Americans are less likely than others, when hearing about new policies to ask, 'How will this affect me?' and are more likely to say, 'This is fair.' "

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Blacks have a good understanding that a strong immigrant community supports broad-based work opportunities, says Ravi Perry, director of ethnic studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. "There have always been some in the black and Hispanic communities who have felt they are in competition for jobs,” he says, but “I don’t see this eroding significant support for Obama in November.”

However, LeBon suggests that more basic issues will drive at least some black voters during such a difficult economic time. “They do not have the luxury of worrying about being inclusive,” she says.

Moreover, the policy shift on immigration is the second recent Obama decision that won't sit well with some African-Americans, says Professor Dunn. The first: gay marriage.

Obama’s decision to publicly announce support for gay marriage “has offended both African-American and Latino voters, who generally favor traditional marriage,” he says. African-American pastors of large churches have voiced discontent with the president's position, he says, and the Roman Catholic Church's adamant opposition hurts him with Latino voters, many of whom are Catholic, as well.

But the president is seen as a leader in the African-American community, and that standing will help him, says Natalie Davis, professor of political science at Birmingham Southern College in Birmingham, Ala. When Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, “comments were raised about backlash inside the black community that blacks would lose their enthusiasm because traditional marriage is part of the black culture.” Yet afterward, “numerous polls reported that support of gay marriage went up in the black community."

The same dynamic is likely on immigration reform. "He has a leadership role in the community," says Professor Davis, "and I seriously doubt that this will hurt him."


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