July 25, 2008

Latino Congreso Builds For Progressive Latino Vote

Immigrant and labor rights, peace, economic and environmental justice, and equality are prioritized

By Rosalio Muñoz

More than 1500 Latino public officials, civil and labor rights leaders, and community leaders and activists from 20 states participated in the 3rd annual National Latino Congreso reaffirming a progressive Latino agenda to bring out a 10 million Latino voter turnout to change the direction of the country in the 2008 elections. “We can’t have another eight years like the last,” declared Lillian Hernandez Lopez, President of the East Coast based Hispanic Federation to roaring cheers in opening the Congreso, held July 18-20 in Los Angeles.

Legalization and full rights for immigrant workers, immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq war, the employee free choice act, greater federal support to meet the economic an environmental crises and to end disparities for Latinos, African Americans and other groups in education, and health care, criminal justice, and jobs, were top priorities of the congreso.

“Translating resolutions into reality” was the official theme and the focus of discussions was on building political clout in voter registration and turn out, support for candidates on the issues, and alliance and coalition building, and building constituency for the future.

Being a decisive vote in the Presidential and Congressional elections was emphasized, and though the Congreso leaders and plenaries could not endorse, electing Barack Obama president and bigger Democrat majorities in Congress was either advocated or implied by virtually all. There was no Republican presence. Many Congress persons, group leaders, and grassroots activists wore Latinos For Obama buttons.

Antonio Gonzalez, President of Southwest Voter Registration Project, announced that the Congreso convening groups had raised $ million dollars towards registering 250,000 new Latino voters for the November elections targeting battleground states for the presidency, senate, and congressional races as well as key areas. This would be the Congreso’s contribution to increasing the Latino registration by over 1 million between now and the deadlines for the November elections.

The Congreso has a 10/12 plan, 12 million registrants and 10 million new voters. Latinos could make up 1 out of every 10 voters. They could provide a cushion of 3-4 million for Obama, and be decisive in over 20 house and senate races.

“We have been waiting since 1986, years for a good immigration law. With Obama we won’t have to wait another 22,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, who as Assistant to the Speaker is the highest ranking Latino in the House of Representatives. McCain’s campaign and policy “is driven by Republican base voters who are not friendly to immigrants,” said Becerra. He added, “We have been reactive, on the defensive ... with Obama we can initiate, be proactive,” and warned a big Latino vote is also necessary to ensure the Democratic congressional leadership’s support of immigrant rights, as some conservative or vulnerable Democrats join most Republicans on anti immigrant policies.

Adolfo Carreon, who as Bronx Borough President, represents over 1 million people, said Obama will “change the conversation of politics, close down the war, fix the economy, and deliver on health care.” He added that 50,000 Latinos turn 18 every day and are now 15% of the population and will be one third by 2050. He said that Latinos had strong bases for unity, all groups were multi-racial and multicultural with a common colonial heritage, and have “labored side by side in building bridges, railroads, factories, agriculture ... we helped build the labor movement in this country”

Rep. Joe Baca, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus stressed Obama would bring back the troops from Iraq, create jobs, cut tax breaks for outsourcing, support the Dream Act, end health disparities” and added “we have to get over the Black vs Brown, Brown vs Black syndromes ... Obama will break down barriers for all.”

Baca argued that “that strong and united voting will bring recognition and respect from employers, law enforcement and change social attitudes.” He said the community has to give more attention to the Hispanic Caucus, whose clout, skills and experience is growing. He said community support and primary voting helped the caucus stand up against compromises on immigrant’s rights by the Democratic leadership.

The last session of the Congreso announced the calling for a Black-Latino Summit projected for October 4 with the Congreso, MALDEF and the Hispanic Federation as well as Policy Link, NAACP, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Angela Glover chief executive officer of Policy Link said, “The country is ready for a great leap forward. Its length depends on our unity. The people are ready. But we need not only to reach the lowest common denominator ... we have to deal with the tensions so we can stretch for greater change.”

Rosalio Muñoz is the Southern California Editor of the Peoples Weekly World newspaper. He has resided and lived in the greater Eastside of Los Angeles for 61 years and been a progressive Chicano/Latino activist and writer since 1967. Reprinted from LationLA (www.latinola.com)

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