By: Raisa Camargo
Leading Hispanic organizations in Washington D.C. are pushing their own political agenda while battling sensitive issues as they head toward both the Democratic and Republican conventions.
A “Latino agenda” was published by the coalition Wednesday — a day after the GOP convention platform embraced four policies presented to its members by Kris Kobach, architect of Arizona’s SB1070. Kobach got the GOP platform to adopt an increase in border fencing, support for the E-Verify employment verification system, and the counter attack on states that provide in-state tuition for undocumented students and the formation of sanctuary cities.
Héctor Sánchez, chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), said the organizations will take an aggressive role against policies that go too far. He told a crowded room of reporters at the National Press Club that the extremism advocated by the Republican Party is unacceptable.
“We’re here as an aggressive coalition to say ‘Enough is enough,’” he said.
Sanchez added that NHLA will continue to press GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on whether he would grant deferred action to Dreamers.
The Latino vote is expected to turn out in higher numbers this November — with a 10 to 12.2 million projection. That is part of the reason why the agenda will be presented at both political conventions to elected officials, candidates, and other policymakers. It will serve to inform voters on where both parties stand in areas that affect the Hispanic community.
First stop will be the Republican National Convention next week.
The coalition has also requested meetings with the leadership of both parties, but it did not disclose who is the main contact at the GOP convention. The members also clarified they understand that Latino conservatives vary in terms of where they stand on immigration — and that they’re open to dialogue.
Jennifer Korn, president of the right-leaning, non-profit Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN), said there is room for debate on immigration.
“We’ve been working on the Hill and in the community for many years and there are many conservatives that are pro-immigration reform,” she said. “I think people would be surprised at how close Republicans and Democrats are as far as moving forward on immigration reform.”
HLN will also be issuing a summary of its recommendations it believes Republicans should consider.
The NHLA, composed of 30 Latino organizations, will pursue the passage of immigration reform, easing state enforcement of immigration laws, supporting the federal government’s Hispanic workforce, and reforms in education and health care access.
The immigration recommendations included in the report outline support for the DREAM Act, demilitarizing the southwest border, applying cost-effective alternatives to detention for those who pose low risk to public safety, and enacting comprehensive immigration reform.
The coalition’s members were also disturbed by the fact that Hispanic representation among new hires in the federal government has dropped since 2009.
On voter suppression, the report makes clear that it opposes photo ID requirements. It also advocates for legislation to rein in unlimited corporate money that influences elections.
Yet, since it was established in 1991 as a nonpartisan association, skeptics say the quadrennial policy agendas have little effect on Congress members.
At the press conference, reporters questioned whether the recommendations NHLA proposes has had any viable results in the past.
In response, the NHLA said the agenda serves as a “congressional score card” for voters to take into account.
“We will look to them not based on what the party platform was in 2012, but we’ll look to the actual votes that they will report on the floor of the House and Senate,” said a member of NHLA. “This puts those parties and future elected officials on notice.”
The NHLA issued an assessment in 2010 based on the 2008 policy agenda.
The evaluation gave low grades on Obama’s immigration policy and high marks on the economy, health, civil rights and education for increasing funding to Hispanic serving institutions. In terms of the score cards, the NHLA expressed opposition to mostly House Republican propositions in the evaluation of the 108th Congress.
Brent Wilkes, president of the League of the United Latin American Citizens, said it’s more likely that the parties will respond more effectively this time around. Yet, he said that, realistically, the Democrats and Republican Party won’t come to a comprehensive agreement on the policies outlined.
“They’ll pick and choose what they want to focus on,” Wilkes told VOXXI. “Republicans are going to take out support for small businesses and Democrats will probably pull out some of the things that they think are in their sweet spot.”
Estuardo Rodríguez, a consultant of Democratic and Hispanic issues at the Raben Group – a Washington D.C. based firm that works in policy consultation – said there is a more inclusive Hispanic ambience this year at the GOP convention and, therefore, more priority will be placed on this agenda.
He credits this resurgent empowerment to the rise of prominent Hispanic elected officials such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. There is also speculation that there will be a higher uptick on the number of Latino delegates and Latino organizations at the conventions. At the Republican National convention in 2008, 93 percent of its delegates were non-Hispanic white. Five percent were Hispanic and two percent were black.
Rodriguez said the 2008 Republican convention “wasn’t a shoulder-to-shoulder pack Hispanic celebration” in comparison to the Democratic one.
Yet, there seems to be a difference this year.
He said they have been contacted ahead of time by not just Spanish language media, but mainstream media in Texas markets noting that they’ve expressed interest in understanding what are the political demands of the Latino community.
“There’s a deeper understanding of the value of the Latino voter,” Rodriguez told VOXXI. “Even though, we’ve done this in 2008, we will experience something different at these conventions.
“We’re going to find a audience and a greater attention of what this report asks for.”