Virginia voters at the polls in the 2012 election. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Andrew Shurtleff)

Latino groups hope immigration has impact in Va. governor’s race

Latino groups are intensifying get-out-the-vote efforts in the Virginia governor’s race against a national backdrop of a congressional struggle over immigration reform.

The groups said Thursday immigration reform is a critical issue on which candidates will be measured by Latino voters in the race.

As the groups work to have a strong showing of Latino turnout in Tuesday’s race, pressure has intensified on House Republicans to move immigration reform legislation in the waning days of this congressional year.

That has helped keep the issue in the forefront as the Virginia candidates head to Election Day and groups try to turn out Latino voters in the state, home to the 16th largest population of Hispanic-eligible voters.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli, former Virgina Attorney General, faces Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who once served as the Democratic Party’s national chair.

The race has been marred by an investigation into Gov. Robert F. McDonnell for accepting gifts from a wealthy donor. The same donor contributed to Cuccinelli’s campaign.

McAuliffe’s ties to GreenTech automotive company, the subject of federal inquiries, also have been raised in the campaign.

Matthew McClellan, executive director of the National Council of La Raza Action Fund, said the get-out-the-Latino-vote groups are making more than 75,000 calls over the next few days leading up to the race.

In addition, they are conducting door-to-door campaigns, putting up advertisements in Spanish-language media and sending direct mail to almost 27,000 households.

“The Latino community is tired of talk and demanding action,” McClellan said. “Saying the right thing is not enough and we will be looking for action after is over.”

Hector Sanchez, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, said it is not an exaggeration to say the Latino community has been under attack especially when it comes to immigrants.

Hate crimes have increased 45 percent against Latinos and Latino workers have become more vulnerable amid an anti-immigrant environment, he said.

“It’s very important for everyone to turn out to the polls, to analyze where those candidates are and make sure those candidates are representing Latinos on issues that are critical for the community,” Sanchez said.

McConnell said while the groups don’t endorse candidates, they are educating voters on the gubernatorial candidates’ positions. Support for a pathway to citizenship for people not legally in the U.S. is key, he said.

Also important is support for legalizing DREAMers, who are children brought to the country by their parents, he said. The groups are targeting young voters.

McAuliffe favors giving a path to citizenship for the young immigrants while Cuccinelli opposes that.

Sindy Benavides, a voter mobilization official at the League of United Latin American Citizens, said about 10 percent of the Virginia population is foreign-born.

She also said Virginia’s Latino population of more than 630,000 has spread beyond northern part of the state.

Also voters are being informed where to vote because of redistricting changes and because some new voters have yet to receive their voter cards where their polling places are printed.

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