RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
As we just heard from Mara, immigration is on the president's agenda. And as we know, Latinos were a key to his victory in November, turning out in big numbers and supporting Mr. Obama by more than two-to-one over Mitt Romney. Now those voters want to make absolutely sure that he does something he did not do in his first term - really push for comprehensive immigration reforms.
The head of the inauguration, NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has been talking to Latino activists.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Let's start with a group of Latinos - young and old, some U.S. citizens, some undocumented - heading from Florida to Washington for the inauguration and for meetings with members of Congress. As caravans go, it's a small one - 13 people, two vans. I caught up with them in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The group is pushing President Obama to follow through on past promises to fix a broken immigration system. They also want him to suspend deportations, which have reached record levels in his first term. Thirty-year-old Daniel Barajas.
DANIEL BARAJAS: Politicians sit there and they preach and taunt and use about family values, and how a society to succeed it needs great family values. But they just sit there on the side, twiddling their thumbs, while families are being ripped apart daily.
GONYEA: Barajas says he sees the president as the lesser of two evils. He says Republicans are far worse with their calls for a high-tech border fence and talk of self-deportation. Another member of the caravan takes a more positive tone. Twenty-year-old Carlos Lopez has never been to Washington and has never seen the president, let alone an inauguration.
CARLOS LOPEZ: One of the reasons that I'm pretty excited about it is because I've never been to one. So it's going to be really interesting. There's going to be a lot of people. And I've never seen snow, because I've been stuck in Florida this whole time. So I'm pretty excited about that as well.
GONYEA: I don't think it's going to snow.
LOPEZ: Oh. OK. OK.
GONYEA: Lopez says he's happy to take part in the celebration of a new term for President Obama. There is, however, a but.
LOPEZ: I think the but is Obama promised immigration reform four years ago and didn't do anything. And now he's said it again. He's promised it, you know. And that's what I came here to push him and make sure he knows that we're there. And we're going to be pushing till it comes through, you know.
GONYEA: For Latinos, their lopsided vote in support of the president in the election, their strong turnout and their overall population growth make them a rising political force. Some key Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, Senator Marco Rubio and others, now also see risk in taking a hard line and alienating these voters.
Yesterday in Washington another immigration reform group called the Campaign for Citizenship held an event featuring the so-called Dreamers - young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and remain undocumented. The DREAM Act, which failed to pass last year, would have provided for them a path to citizenship. Alejandra Gomez lives in New Mexico; she told the emotional story about her two brothers' deportation last year.
ALEJANDRA GOMEZ: So my prayers for 2013 is that President Obama and the Congress will act to finally fix our immigration system and create a path to citizenship for families like mine, so that families like mine can reunite. Thank you for listening to my story.
GONYEA: Gomez said she does support the president, and urged others to do so in the November election. But she also says now is the time for this issue to be settled. The president again begins a term of office by calling immigration a priority. Latinos hope that's for real this time. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.