The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda issued its blueprint for public policy measures and is calling for both parties to implement these in their platforms. (Photo/Getty Images )

Frustrated Hispanic organizations issue ‘Latino’ agenda, set sights on conventions

The political parties are busy drafting their platforms – but a group consisting of 30 Latino organizations has issued its own ‘blueprint’ for the Latino community, and says it will go to both conventions demanding these issues become front and center on both parties’ agendas.

“We’re here as an aggressive coalition to say enough is enough,” said Hector Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda  (NHLA) at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. Sanchez says the groups are denouncing what he called a constant violation of labor, human and civil rights, voter suppression laws (referring to voter ID laws passed in different states) and education and health disparities.

Some groups who form part of NHLA include ASPIRA, the Cuban American National Council, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Hispanic Federation, NALEO, the National Council of La Raza, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the Southwest Voter Education Registration Project, among others.

NHLA stresses it is non-partisan. Serena Davila, of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), said NHLA had worked with both Democratic Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio on Dream Act-type legislation. “Whomever is willing to help us with this platform, we will work with them,” Davila said.

The group was forceful however, when it came to criticizing the GOP on immigration.  “We are non-partisan,” said NHLA chairman Sanchez, “but the extremism of the Republican party on immigration is unacceptable – it’s destroying our communities.”  HNLA advocates for enacting immigration reform which gives undocumented Americans a path to earn legal status and citizenship, curtailing local and state enforcement of immigration laws, and passage of the Dream Act.

These differences will be very apparent during the Republican convention next week.  The Republican party just drafted immigration language into their platform proposed by SB1070 architect Kris Kobach. The GOP platform supports measures to encourage ‘self-deportation,’ which has resulted in a fierce backlash from Latino groups.  The platform also includes support of Arizona-style immigration laws, and calls for denying federal financing to colleges and universities that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.

The consortium of 30 groups support legislation which is more aligned with Democratic party stances. The group supports the Affordable Care Act.  Yanira Cruz, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging, said while the health care law “is no silver bullet, it’s moving us in the right direction,” since its focus on preventive care helps reverse existing health disparities among Latinos, she said.

NHLA is also against new photo ID voter laws which they say suppress the Latino vote, and supports the Violence Against Women Act, which includes protections for undocumented victims of domestic violence. Republican legislatures in several states have enacted voter ID laws, and recently some Congressional Republicans opposed including undocumented women as protected under the Violence Against Women Act.  The group also opposes cuts to programs such as Medicaid, which are a key component of Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s proposed budget.

The reality is that many if not most of the issues espoused by these Latino groups are not going to become part of the Republican platform anytime soon.

“The Republicans are going to have to train the spotlight elsewhere,” says political scientist and NBC Latino contributor Victoria deFrancesco Soto.  She says the Republican party needs to say they do not agree with groups like NHLA on many issues, but emphasize their economic outlook and how they think this benefits Latinos.  It can also be an opportunity for both parties to sit down with Latino groups and try to focus on constructive dialogue, says deFrancesco Soto.

The National Hispanic National Leadership Agenda insists, however, it will be putting pressure on both parties to adopt measures and legislation they consider crucial to improving Latinos’ livelihoods and ensuring full participation in the national sphere.

“The Latino vote has become a decisive force in national elections – both parties need to earn the Latino vote,” Sanchez said.

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