LULAC on MSNBC: Latinos Force GOP To Negotiate on Immigration

Posted on 11/14/2012 @ 10:40 AM

Read the story on MSNBC here: http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/11/14/latinos-force-gop-to-negotiate-on-immigration/

Immigration reform is back on the congressional negotiating table after massive Latino voter turnout that overwhelmingly backed President Obama’s re-election Nov. 6.

On Sunday, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced on separate talk shows that they were restarting talks on immigration reform.

Immigration activists protest outside of The Grand America in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is holding a campaign fundraising event, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. (Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

“We have nobody to blame but ourselves when it comes to losing Hispanics,” Grahman said on CBS’ Face the Nation.

The Republican senator promised to “tear this wall down and pass an immigration reform bill.”

Schumer described a Democratic plan that would include a path to citizenship and a way for immigrants to work legally, along with a secure border.

The Latino community is large, but not particularly wealthy, so the “only way to get attention is to have huge voter turnout,” explains Brent Wilkes, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

And turn out they did: Latinos made up 10% of the electorate in 2012, compared to 9% in 2008 and 8% in 2004, according to NBC News.

They voted 71% for President Obama and just 27% for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. That percentage represents a continual decline of the Latino vote for GOP presidential candidates in the last few years: John McCain captured 31% in 2008; President George W. Bush earned 40% in 2004.

This trend has left Republicans scrambling to adapt to changing demographics that will no longer let the party rely on white voters for victory.

“That was the rallying cry,” Wilkes said. “We said if you want progress on the issues that matter to you, all you have to do is vote.”

Former House Speaker and onetime presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich called Romney’s far-right stance on immigration during the presidential race “a disaster” for the party on Tuesday’s Morning Joe. The Latino demographic is now a “make or break it” part of the electorate, he added.

“You can’t say I’d really like to get your vote over jobs, but by the way we’re going to kick out your grandmother,” Gingrich said. “It doesn’t work.”

Though his position evolved and softened somewhat during the campaign, Romney rejected plans from more moderate Republicans during the primary that included paths to citizenship, saying “amnesty is a magnet” that simply encourages more illegal immigrants.

Lynn Sanders, a race and politics expert at the University of Virginia, called it “imperative” that the GOP soften its stance on immigration in order to survive within the country’s changing demographics.

“It’s really imperative that the GOP soften or be more creative or be more open about people finding ways for immigration reform,” she said. “The GOP needs an immigration reform stance and they need that maybe for moral or human values, but they really need it for their own survival.”

House Speaker John Boehner. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The party’s leadership appears to have gotten the message—somewhat.

In an interview last week, House Speaker John Boehner endorsed passing “comprehensive” immigration reform, adopting the term of advocates pushing for citizenship.

“I’m not talking about a 3,000-page bill,” he said later. “What I’m talking about is a common sense, step-by-step approach [that] would secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws and fix a broken immigration system.”

An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor added that legislation would need to include a broader plan for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“We understand that we can’t keep kicking this can down the road,” the aide said.

Latinos are the largest growing demographic in the country and political scientists have long predicted their future political weight.

“People have been saying Latino voters are a sleeping giant so much it’s a cliché in our field.” Sanders said. Now that that political giant has “manifested,” as Sanders puts it, the question of immigration reform is not when but how.

Perhaps one of the most symbolic questions is whether or not the party will support a path for illegal immigrants to gain legal, so-called guest worker status or full citizenship.

Wilkes, though, wasn’t convinced that a guest-worker measure would really attract votes for the GOP. Republicans who want to “get serious” about attracting Latinos to the party should “go all in” he said.

“Let people become citizens,” he added. “There’s no other real benefit to citizenship other than the ability to participate in democracy.”

More importantly, Wilkes said, citizens build stronger communities: workers can be unionized, they qualify for healthcare, and contribute to the economy long-term.

Placards and campaign stickers sit on a table at the Latino regional headquarters for the Obama campaign during election day of the U.S. presidential election in Milwaukee, Wisconsin November 6, 2012. (Photo by REUTERS/Sara Stathas)

LULAC partnered with other Latino advocates to register voters for 2012. Wilkes estimated it registered 300,000 Latinos. It also made 30,000 callers to voters on Obama’s behalf.

launching a voter education and Latino outreach program even before the Republican primary.

LULAC and other Latino advocates of the president were disappointed the president did not push for immigration reform during the first two years of his term when Democrats had control of Congress, but now expect reform to be accomplished by April 2013.

“We want to get the bill passed by April,” Wilkes said.

Wilkes, however, wasn’t surprised immigration reform wasn’t accomplished during Obama’s first term.

“The first minority president is going to focus on things that benefit everyone [in his first term], lest he be characterized as someone who is catering to minority groups,” he remarked.

Although he saw a Tea Party surge in 2010 that “wiped out” immigration reform efforts when Latinos were made into “scapegoats,” particularly in states like Arizona, Wilkes is optimistic following the election.

“Latino voters have showed they’re the difference makers in elections and the Tea Party is not,” he said.

Lifting our Voices to Ensure the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Posted on 11/14/2012 @ 09:39 AM

By: Rosie Hidalgo, J.D.

The voices of advocates and community leaders have made a big difference this year in working hard to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but the work is not done. VAWA expired in 2011. Congress has been deadlocked with different versions of VAWA reauthorization bills that passed the House and the Senate in 2012, but has failed to secure the passage of a final VAWA bill that protects all victims. Additionally, the House VAWA bill (HR4970) proposes changes that for the first time in VAWA’s history would erode rather than strengthen protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and would undermine victim safety. More than ever, we need to speak out to let Congress know that our nation’s commitment to ending domestic violence and sexual assault cannot falter. Congress must work in a bipartisan fashion during the final weeks of this term to finalize a VAWA bill that will protect all victims and that does not roll back critical protections for immigrant survivors.

On November 8th, hundreds of advocates and community leaders across the country participated on a national call to discuss the importance of getting VAWA across the finish line during this term of Congress. Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, stated that the reauthorization of VAWA is a high priority of this Administration during the “lame duck” session when Congress reconvenes this week. However, she reminded participants that we all need to make our voices heard so that Congress does its part.

Today, Wednesday, November 14th will be a National Day of Action for VAWA, organized by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, in which we ask community members across the nation to reach out to their members of Congress (Democrats and Republicans alike) to let them know they must approve a final VAWA bill. It is urgent to convey to members of Congress that VAWA must protect all victims and must not roll back current protections for immigrant victims. While the National Day of Action begins November 14th, we should continue to spread the word and urge people to speak out until Congress gets the job done.

If you would like more information about VAWA, and to access additional information about how to contact your member of Congress, visit the policy section of Casa de Esperanza’s website for our national initiative, the National Latino Network for Healthy Families and Communities, at: http://www.nationallatinonetwork.org/policy-and-action/action-alerts/vawa You can also visit www.4vawa.org to learn more about how you can participate in the PassVAWA2012 Social Media Campaign.

I was honored last month, during a Domestic Violence Month awareness event in Chicago, to share the podium with two immigrant women, survivors of domestic violence, who shared their stories of how VAWA’s immigration remedies (the VAWA Self-petition and U visa) were critical to helping them come out of the shadows to seek safety and obtain the help they needed to rebuild their lives free from violence. In this event, organized by Mujeres Latinas en Acción, over 400 Latina women came together for a Women’s Leadership Conference. During that event Casa de Esperanza co-hosted a press conference focused on the importance of VAWA and the need for Congress to come together to finalize the passage of a comprehensive VAWA bill. We were also honored to have Dolores Huerta keynote the event and speak out at the press conference about the importance of VAWA. As a national civil rights leader with an amazing legacy of work over the past four decades fighting for social justice, Dolores Huerta spoke about how important it is in our communities to improve efforts to prevent and end domestic violence and for Congress to ensure that VAWA protects all victims, particularly vulnerable immigrant victims. You can watch a video of the press conference at this link.

We hope you will be able to join efforts to raise our voices to tell Congress to do the right thing… and to do it now. VAWA’s reauthorization has to be about going forward in improving our nation’s response to violence against women – it cannot go backwards. The next step is for Congress to avoid further delays and to agree on a final bipartisan version of VAWA that continues to advance VAWA protections for all victims and does not roll back current protections and undermine safety for vulnerable immigrant victims and their children.

Rosie Hidalgo, J.D., is the Director of Public Policy for Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, a national organization dedicated to mobilizing Latinas and Latin@ communities to end domestic violence. Casa de Esperanza serves on the Steering Committee of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. To learn more about Casa de Esperanza, visit www.casadeesperanza.org.

LULAC on Forbes: The Organizations Behind the Great Latino Vote

Posted on 11/02/2012 @ 11:08 AM

As we move closer and closer to Election Day, LULAC members on the ground are working harder to make sure that Latinos hit the early voting stations or the poll booths this Tuesday. Forbes contributor Giovanni Rodriguez recognized the efforts of the LULAC membership and staff! Read more below.

THE ORGANIZATIONS BEHIND THE GREAT LATINO VOTE

By: Giovanni Rodriguez, Contributor
11/01/2012 @ 1:39 PM

They’re using social, mobile, and on-the-ground organizing. And they’re getting the job done.

Earlier today, The Wall Street Journal posted the latest in a series of headlines this week provoking conversation about Latino voters: “Election May Hinge On Latino Turnout.” But while people debate whether Latinos in fact will show up this election, there are many people with phones in hand, fingers on the keyboard, and boots on the ground making sure that 2012 will be an election to remember. There are too many people in these roles to list them all here. But with the help of a few friends, I’ve selected a few for special attention. If you would like to add an organization to this list, let me know in the comments. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and all these organizations can use your help.

NCLR — the mother of many Latino causes, The National Council for La Raza has been involved on a number of fronts, including a recently announced sweepstakes with The X Factor designed to get younger Latinos to vote. (NCLR on Twitter.)

LULAC – founded in 1929, The League of United Latin American Citizens is the oldest and one of the most venerable Latino civil rights organizations in the US. A partner to several organizations in voter registration programs, LULAC has an ambitious volunteer program where you can “organize your community and host voter registration drives in your neighborhood.” (LULAC on Twitter.)

NALEO Educational Fund — “the nation’s leading nonprofit organization that facilitates the full participation of Latinos in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.” Like NCLR, NALEO has been active in a variety of arenas including research and education on the importance of the Latino vote. Check out the “2012 Latino Election Guide,” linking from their home page. (NALEO on Twitter.)

Mi Familia Vota — “a national non-profit organization working to unite the Latino community and its allies to promote social and economic justice through increased civic participation.” Mi Familia Vota seeks to expand the Latino vote with highly focused voter registration and mobilization in key states. (Mi Familia Vota on Twitter).

Center for Community Change — “one of the larger community building organizations in the US,” according to Wikipedia. With a focus on building “the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color,” the Center has teamed with a number of Latino organizations to mobilize the vote. (The Center on Twitter).

Voto Latino — high profile organization dedicated to Latino voter registration and mobilization. Chairwoman Rosario Dawson and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar have been very effective in attracting publicity to the cause and partnering with other organizations. (Voto Latino on Twitter).

America’s Voice: “The mission of America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund (AVEF) is to harness the power of American voices and American values to promote fair and just immigration reform.” The organization has published a number of informative analyses on the scope and impact of ethnic voters. (America’s Voice on Twitter).

Cuentame – “through short video, docu-series, interviews from our studio, the streets, or sent to us by you,” Cuentame has built a solid online community. Check out the video collection on the Cuentame Vote page. One thing I really like about Cuentame: they have been particularly vocal about the risks of Latinos not voting in this election. It’s a subject that’s close to my heart. (Cuentame on Twitter).

Follow me on Twitter.
Read the article on Forbes here.

LULAC Councils can be first line of defense against school bullying

Posted on 10/19/2012 @ 04:21 PM

Members of LULAC Youth Council #1113 of Dallas, Texas, rallied in support of LGBT bullied teens shortly after the epidemic of Gay Teen Suicides in September 2010. Pictured in the center is Texas State Representative Roberto Alonzo, a longtime Dallas legislator who has helped build bridges between the Latino and LGBT communities.

By Jesse Garcia

Brandon Elizares, Rafael Morelos and Austin Rodriguez bravely came out of the closet early in life. They wanted to live honest and open lives. But sadly, their communities weren’t prepared to protect them from the daily abuse, taunts and threats at school.

Brandon, 16, of El Paso, Texas, was found in his room after ingesting an unknown amount of pills. Rafael, 14, of Cashmere, Washington, left his home and hung himself on a nearby bridge. Austin, 15, of Wellsville, Ohio, put himself in a coma after overdosing on his medication.

Austin survived. Brandon and Rafael did not.

Two years ago, America experienced a string of gay teen suicides that received media attention. Nine gay youth ended their lives in September 2010 as a result of anti-gay bullying. Their deaths sparked an “It Gets Better” campaign, which included video messages of support from members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, Hollywood celebrities and even the President of the United States.

Somehow these messages of support did not reach Brandon, Rafael and Austin, whose tragedies took place in 2012. The Latino community needs to step up and address school bullying at home, and LULAC councils are the perfect vehicle to take on this problem locally with school boards.

Education is a civil right. No one should be denied a safe place where he or she can achieve his or her fullest potential.

Following the string of suicides in the fall of 2010, LULAC Council 4871 of Dallas, Texas, formed a coalition with other civil rights groups in the city to address bullying on the campuses of Dallas Independent School District, the 12th largest school district in the United States with nearly 160,000 students. Two-thirds of the student body is Latino.

Instances of anti-gay bullying in Dallas schools were all too familiar to LULAC council leaders. The council’s first-ever scholarship recipient, a 17-year-old senior named Jesus Montelongo, provided an essay that moved many in the community. The young scholar’s academic achievement was the only positive thing he took away from 12 years of public school. In elementary, Montelongo was singled out by a teacher who told him there was no room for gays on the bus for a school trip, and consequently, he was left behind. By the time the young boy was in middle school, thoughts of suicide were already forming in his head. In high school, Montelongo was threatened so much that he sat alone in the cafeteria to avoid contact with others.

Council leaders shared Montelongo’s story at rallies that LULAC 4871 and its coalition partners coordinated to get DISD school board members to take up the matter. At an Oct. 15, 2010, anti-bullying rally, a press conference with LULAC members and Latino elected officials called for an end to violence on campuses and for acceptance of LGBT students. That evening school board members agreed to meet with LULAC and its partners to discuss a blue print on a safe schools policy.

LULAC 4871 and its coalition partners researched and crafted a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that included the best school codes of conduct from across the nation. The result was a policy that not only protected LGBT youth, but also covered youth of different faiths, races, weight, language and more categories. The policy also clearly defined what constituted bullying. LULAC was also happy that the policy would protect youth who are immigrants and youth who primarily speak a foreign language.

On Nov. 18, 2010, LULAC members attended the DISD school board meeting where officials not only voted for unanimously for the anti-bullying policy but even shared their own stories of being bullied. That signature policy can be found on this link: http://pol.tasb.org/Policy/Code/361?filter=FFI

Policies like Dallas’ help curb incidents that lead to bullying and suicide by making educators and administration more accountable. Bullied children are often either too scared or ashamed to report instances so it is up to adults to take action.

In a 2011 study commissioned by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (a national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students), researchers surveyed 8,584 students between the ages of 13 and 20 from every state and the District of Columbia and found that:

  • 8 out of 10 LGBT students faced harassment in school (81 percent)
  • Three-fifths of respondents felt unsafe at school (63.5 percent)
  • And nearly a third skipped a day of school due to safety concerns (29.8 percent)
To help Latinos tackle the bullying issue with schools and within their own family, national Hispanic organizations, including LULAC, have united for the Familia es Familia campaign. Familia es Familia is a first-of-its kind, comprehensive public education campaign that provides resource materials to help Latino families address LGBT issues, from bullying, to discrimination to marriage. Visit www.familiaesfamilia.org to learn more about how you can prevent more suicides and teach acceptance and respect to our future generations.

Jesse Garcia is a LULAC member and former president of LULAC Council 4871.

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