On the wings of a successful effort that resulted in a record number of Latinos going to the polls in November, a group of Latino civil rights, labor and voting organizations announced today a large-scale civic engagement campaign with one key goal: push President Obama and both houses of Congress to pass bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. Latino leaders say the electorate has spoken on the issue.
Latino voters went to the polls with the economy on their minds, “but immigration reform in their hearts,” said National Council of La Raza (NCLR) CEO and President Janet Murguia. She said she was heartened by the increasing support of not just Democratic and Republican legislators, but business leaders as well as religious leaders. “There is an economic, religious and moral case for immigration reform,” said Murguia.
Maria Teresa Kumar, of Voto Latino, said “the fact we came out in record numbers in 2012 is personal,” she said. “That’s a calculation members of Congress don’t understand,” added Kumar. Hector Sanchez, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLLA), said in English and Spanish that “12 million undocumented workers in the richest nation is not a mistake, it’s public policy.” Chris Espinosa, director of national advocacy at the Hispanic Federation, said “we have secured our borders, now it’s time to get the other elements of immigration reform.”
The group announced they will continue mobilizing naturalized Latinos to become citizens and vote, while they hold constant meetings on Capitol Hill with both sides of the aisle. The Latino leaders said that with 150 new House members, part of the process will be to engage these new legislators on the issue.
The Latino leaders announced they will create a ‘report card’ at the end of 2013 rating every legislator and his or her’s voting and issues stance on immigration reform. “The report card will be bipartisan, pass-fail, and we hope President Obama aces his test; we expect him to,” said labor leader Eliseo Medina, president of the Service International Employees Union (SEIU). On how they will ‘rate’ the legislators, Medina said “we are absolutely clear that words are one thing, actions are another,” adding “November 6th was not the end of our activism, it was the beginning.”
Brent Wilkes, from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said the effort to put pressure on immigration reform will include letter writing, Hill visits, petitions, and actions in members’ districts and home states. Max Sevilla, of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), said a recent Politico/George Washington University poll found 62 percent of Americans support the right of immigrants here in the U.S. to pursue a path to citizenship.
Some analysts and legislators have said they find it hard to believe Congress will pass immigration reform in the coming year. But NCLR’s Janet Murguia said she sees a “real window of opportunity in 2013 – before Congress recesses in August of next year,” she said. Murguia also said she was heartened by the fact that some Democrats and Republicans are stressing the importance of making citizenship a key part of the reform. “It was encouraging to hear from a Hispanic Republican like Mario Diaz-Balart, who says he doesn’t believe anything less than citizenship is something he can support,” she says.
In the meantime, the group says the mobilization that succeeded in making the Latino vote a crucial voting block will do the same in pushing for immigration reform.
“We have proven we can do a great job,” said Ben Monterroso, from Mi Familia Vota.