By Rosalio Munoz and Joelle Fishman
Some 2000 Latino leaders and activists from throughout the United States came together in Los Angeles October 5-9 to iron out a plan of action and a social justice program of issues for the 2008 elections with the goal of bringing out 10 million Latino voters that can play a decisive role in the presidential and congressional elections.
Latinos can be decisive in determining the presidential electoral in the key battle ground states of “Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada … and congressional elections in twenty states” that can change the political direction of the country said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration project, in opening up the 2nd National Latino Congreso convened by 10 national Latino organizations and hundreds of state and local groups from 22 states.
“We are going to mobilize massively to reach record levels of Latino vote” on the key issues of immigration reform, the war, greening cities, health care and climate change declared Gonzalez. While recognizing that “today we don’t have a critical mass to affect that change”, Gonzalez said this can be achieved with “conscious thinking, planning and organizing” leading up to the 2008 elections.” “We have big issues not only as Latinos but as citizens of the world,” he concluded.
Over 50 workshops led by leading advocates and activists reviewed some 100 policy resolutions.
Helping prepare positions on the war in Iraq were Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Out of Iraq Caucus, former Calif. State senator Tom Hayden, Judith Le Blank, national organizer for the United for Peace and Justice, Lydia Lopez of Latinos for Peace. The Congreso unanimously called for complete withdrawal from Iraq to start immediately, no invasion of Iran, support for the October 27 regional demonstrations against the war and for the Iraq Moratoriums activities on the 3rd Friday each month and to support legislative congressional Out of Iraq and Progressive caucuses.
Heading up workshops on immigration reform were Rosa Rosales, National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens, John Trasvina, president of MALDEF, attorney Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association, Martin Manteca, lead organizer of the Laborers International Union of North America, Angela Sambrano of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities. The Congreso passed resolutions reviewed in the workshops to call for legalization with a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, opposition to guest worker programs, a moratorium on deportations and factory raid and no match sanctions, and opposition to candidates who “vilify immigrants, divide communities, break up families and/or incite fears of or violence against immigrants.”
Congreso workshops and resolutions also highlighted healthcare, the environment, political action, labor rights, and relations with Latin America.
Delegates voted to support HR 676 for universal single payer health care, and to override the veto of children’s health care (S-CHIP). Standing for labor rights, the delegates called for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Election day voter registration and publicly financed elections won support, as did establishment of a national holiday for Cesar E. Chavez. The Congreso called for passage of the Clean Air Act, an end to nuclear and coal fired generation of energy and opposed new fossil fuel based power plants in low income and minority communities. Delegates opposed expansion of CAFTA and NAFTA and called for an end to family travel restrictions to Cuba, freedom for the Cuban 5, and closure of the School of the Americas. The Congreso voted to oppose US intervention, covert and overt, in Latin America.
Leading political and social justice leaders electrified Congreso delegates with speeches on the issues.
“America: not another nickel, not another dime, not another soldier, not this time,” declared Rep. Maxine Waters to a standing ovation which repeated when she called for unity of the African American and Latino Communities.
Counter recruitment leader Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose immigrant son Jesus was among the first casualties in Iraq, brought tears to the eyes and standing cheers “what are we doing to stop the dying of the children in Iraq… stand up for housing and jobs but even more important, stand up for life!”
The Congreso approved his call to strike military provisions from the Dream Act which provides college legalization of undocumented college students.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the Congreso “no group can do it alone” in calling for a broad coalition to win just immigration reform. He announced that the US Conference of Mayors would hold hearings across the country to generate a” national response to poverty and to challenge Congress to provide support for working families”. He said Latinos should take a leading role to end the war in Iraq as “we are 14% of the population with 20% of the casualties, its time to bring the troops home.”
Presidential candidates Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Senator Mike Gravel personally addressed the Congreso delegates. Kucinich drew several ovations including his declaration that “it is time to have a president who stands up for workers, for immigrants, for human beings. There is no such thing as an illegal human being.” He called for stopping the raids and canceling NAFTA and WTO. Gravel stressed that opposition to invasion of Iran was the most immediate and urgent issue at this moment warning, “Bush and Cheney want a war with Iran, this could mean a world depression or even a nuclear exchange.”
Representatives of the campaigns of Democrats Sen. Hilary Clinton, Sen. Barak Obama, and Gov. Bill Richardson addressed the Congreso. No Republican candidates responded to invitations to be represented.
Complete information on the Congreso proceedeings are online at http://latinocongreso.org.
Reprinted from LatinoLA.com.