Latino groups will push agenda at party conventions

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 22, 2012 

— A coalition of Hispanic advocacy groups on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious policy agenda, which it intends to deliver to party leaders in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., during the national political conventions.

Charging that Latinos are “under attack,” the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda issued a platform that includes: passing immigration reform, curtailing state enforcement of immigration laws, boosting the federal government’s Hispanic workforce, and providing greater access to health care and education.

“We’re going to hold our leaders accountable for their actions and policies, and the impact they may have on our community,” said Hector Sanchez, chairman of the group. “It’s very clear that the Latino vote has become a decisive force in national elections. And our vote will only keep growing. Both parties need to earn the Latino vote.”

With the number of registered Latinos voters now at 20 million, the coalition hopes to harness its growing political clout. President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have both been trying to build support in the Hispanic community.

The Obama campaign has been running Spanish-language ads in battleground states, including Florida, for months. Romney launched his first Spanish-language ad this month.

But Obama enjoys widespread support among Latino voters. He led Romney 67 percent to 23 percent in an NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll last month. It’s a long-term concern for the GOP because Hispanics are among the fastest growing minorities in the U.S.

The coalition’s agenda includes more than 40 policy recommendations involving economic security, empowerment, education, immigration, government accountability, civil rights, and health. It will deliver the agenda to Republican leaders on Monday in Tampa, the first day of the Republican National Convention.

The Democrats will get their copy a week later when the party convenes in Charlotte to renominate Obama.

The agenda will be used to create a political scorecard for Latino voters to judge lawmakers, said James Ferg-Cadima, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The coalition also plans to produce progress reports in 2014 and 2016.

Some of the biggest names among nonpartisan Hispanic civil rights and advocacy groups are involved in the coalition. Besides Ferg-Cadima’s organization, they include the National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The groups have worked with both parties, including Obama, on a long sought-after bill known as the Dream Act, which would give young, illegal immigrants a path to legal status, and also with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who introduced his own version.

Supporters say both parties are responsible for failing Latinos.

Sanchez said that “extremism” from some Republicans pushing stronger immigration laws was “unacceptable.” Others criticized Obama’s failed efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform and his administration’s record number of deportations.

Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation, which assists community and social service groups, said the Latino community has had some disappointments and successes under Obama. With no Dream Act passed, the president issued an executive order in June that will give hundreds of thousands of young, illegal immigrants a two-year deferment to remain and work legally in the U.S.

“It’s certainly a mixed bag,” Calderon said.

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