The Latino Community Wants Accountability in 2010
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Today, nearly 350 Latino leaders from 30 states are gathering in Washington as part of the 2010 National Council of La Raza (NCLR) National Latino Advocacy Days. They will visit their congressional representatives to call for action on national priorities of critical importance to the Latino community. In addition to health care, at the top of that list are jobs and immigration reform, two issues that directly affect the stability of Latino communities and will undoubtedly influence turnout and enthusiasm in the 2010 elections.
Latino civic participation has grown in past years, and it is important that this growth does not plateau or fall off. Although still lagging behind in participation compared to other demographics--given the youthfulness of the population, among other factors--Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the electorate. They added more than two million voters to their ranks between 2004 and 2008--a growth of 30%. Every month, 70,000 U.S.-born Latinos turn 18 and eligible immigrants, though facing a process increasingly priced out of their means, continue to save to become citizens. In 2008, Latinos played a vital role in choosing the presidential nominee in both parties, were a determining factor in who won House and Senate races in states from North Carolina to New Mexico, and ultimately were the decisive factor in the outcome of the presidential election in many battleground states.
Both parties need to engage in and deliver on the issues that matter to this electorate. In 2004, President Bush garnered about 40% of the Latino vote (a key factor in his victory), and in 2008 President Obama won with about 66% of that vote.
In 2006, Latinos powered nationwide peaceful demonstrations where millions participated to prevent passage of one of the harshest anti-immigrant proposals in the past 70 years. In 2007, energized by that momentum, eligible Latino immigrants became citizens in record numbers. And those new citizens, together with Latinos turning 18 or newly registering, helped drive the massive increase in the size of the Latino electorate.
The promise of change that energized voting and participation in 2008 is bringing these hundreds of Latino community leaders to Washington today. They intend to push Congress to act on the needs of the nation: and remind the White House about its promises to Hispanic voters on the immigration reform issue:
They also want to remind the White House about its promises to Hispanic voters on the immigration reform issue:
Jobs and the economy have always been at the top of the Latino agenda--and that priority has only intensified in the context of the economic recession. Next to Blacks, Latinos are the community hardest hit by unemployment, which long ago passed the double-digit mark that set off alarms nationwide. But, as with other communities, Latinos have not seen the kind of congressional action that will truly help their community recuperate. While in Washington, the community leaders participating in NCLR National Latino Advocacy Days will be advocating for specific actions that provide immediate relief to people out of work and lay the foundation for a broad-based economic recovery that benefits all American workers.
These community leaders will also focus on pushing for solutions on another threshold, galvanizing issue for Latino voters: immigration reform. Although the majority of Latinos are U.S.-born, 69% of Latino voters report that they have a friend, neighbor, family member, or coworker who is an undocumented immigrant, and 82% consider the issue important to them and their family (with 59% considering it "very important"). From a strictly policy perspective, reform stands to benefit the country as a whole when you look at tax revenues, labor market equity, and protecting workers' rights. Yet the impact is even more intense for Latinos, whose communities have been ravaged by the chaos in the current system.