Immigration Tops Latinos’ Wish List At D.C. Meeting

Immigration Tops Latinos Wish List at D.C. Meeting

By Fernanda Santos
The New York Times, January 19, 2009

A new president takes office on Tuesday. It is time to ask for favors, to settle debts accrued during the campaign season.

Latinos, who make up 9 percent of the national electorate, lent their support overwhelmingly to President-elect Barack Obama, voting for him at a rate of 2 to 1 over his Republican rival, Senator John McCain. The votes were roughly equivalent to Mr. Obamas margin of victory in the popular vote and in key swing states such as Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, which flipped from red to blue.

On Monday, a group of Latino advocates convened at a hotel on Capitol Hill to find out what it is that they should ask for first from the new administration and, as expected, immigration reform figured at the top of the list.

Immigration remains a highly divisive political issue, particularly since concerns about terrorism amplified the debate about border security in recent years. In 2007, Congress failed to enact an immigration reform package because of fundamental disagreements between supporters of tougher enforcement to curb illegal entry into the country and advocates of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

John Trasvia, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which hosted the event, the second annual Latino State of the Union, a gathering of advocates, civil rights activists and lawmakers representing the interests of the Latino community, said: 'We have to take immigration away from the border and present it as an issue of national interest defined by cooperation, rather than confrontation, with Mexico and Latin America.'

It is, Mr. Trasvia said, a question of fostering acceptance of Latinos, who have been victimized by hate, in the hands of perpetrators who attack them because of their ethnicity, and overzealousness, in the hands of local police officers who have been deputized to act as immigration enforcers in communities nationwide.

He mentioned that Latinos have 'friends in high places' in the Obama administration, like the Interior secretary designate, Ken Salazar; the Labor secretary designate, Hilda Solis; and the White Houses director of intergovernmental affairs, Cecilia Muoz, formerly a vice president of the National Council de la Raza.

In remarks read by Tina Tchen, who will be the White House director of public liaison, Mr. Obama said to Latinos, 'You showed how powerful you are on Nov. 4' and that the appointments are 'a measure of my commitment' of forming a government that reflects the nations diversity.

But the question remains: Can they be expected to push the Latino agenda of immigration reform?

'Whats important is not to whether they move the immigration agenda,' said Rosa Rosales, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or Lulac. 'Its also our responsibility, as leaders in our community, that they hear from us. We make the difference.'

Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of the New Democratic Network, a progressive think tank, said that the Latino vote is now too important to be ignored and that might help speed things up in Congress, especially as congressional district lines will be redrawn after the 2010 Census. Certainly some Republican leaders are urging their party to figure out a way to regain Latino support that eroded during this presidential election.

'I anticipate a dramatic shift in power toward heavily Latino parts of the United States' following the redistricting, Mr. Rosenberg said. 'Remember: in redistricting, we count people, not citizens.'


Hope for immigration reform
By Daniel Lopez
The Monterey County Herald (CA), January 21, 2009

Immigration Reform is Doable, A Key Symbol of Change, Say Religious, Labor, Latino, and Immigrant Advocacy Leaders
La Presna (San Diego), January 16, 2009