"They're very disappointed with the president because of jobs and immigration reform," Torres added, referring to Obama's unfulfilled pledge to overhaul the nation's immigration policy. Many Latinos also have sharply criticized the administration's handling of deportations of undocumented immigrants.
But among registered Latino voters, the top issue is jobs, and the outlook is brightening. Monthly updates from Casa de Maryland's five field offices, where people get training and help finding jobs, show a 20% to 30% increase in hiring in the last year.
Although most are temporary jobs, Torres said, "they are feeling things are moving in the right direction."
Latinos have a bigger climb than others. According to Pew, household wealth of Latinos, on average, fell more sharply than for whites or blacks from 2005 to 2009, and the ethnic group's poverty rate from 2006 to 2010 increased more than for any other group.
Fred Moreno of Bell, who has an associate's degree in science and information technology, knows what it's like to fall below the poverty line.
Laid off from a copier company in 2008, the 44-year-old Navy veteran exhausted his $200-a-week jobless benefits by the end of 2010. He then drained his life savings, had his truck repossessed and ended up homeless, sleeping sometimes at a shelter by the airport.
"I don't smoke, I don't drink or do drugs," he said. "I'm bilingual. I have two good legs, two good arms. But it's not happening."
Then, a few months ago, after getting help with his resume from Adrian Lazaro of the California Employment Development Department, Moreno landed a job as a technician with Xerox Corp. in El Segundo.
He has since moved back into an apartment, married and bought a 1995 Ford van. "I'm slowly and surely saving up again," he said.