While the rest of Chicago is focused on the NATO Summit, Latino leaders are reminding the community to get out the vote.
They spoke at a crowded press conference Thursday during the National Latino Congreso, a gathering of Latino leaders from across the country held in Little Village.
“Let’s not fool ourselves,” said Ald. Daniel Solis (25th). “Fewer and fewer people have been voting.”
Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, said between 2000 and 2008, registered Latino voters increased by 50 percent to about 400,000 people.
“We have a lot of work to do to get the other 50 percent to those polls,” she said. “Mobilizing [the youth] is a challenge we all face.”
Puente added that education, the economy and healthcare would prove key issues to Latino voters in the fall, and will be discussed at length at the Congreso, which, for the first time, is being held somewhere outside of the Southwestern United States.
Lawrence Benito, executive director for the Illinois Coalition for the Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said there are five congressional districts in Illinois with 40,000 or more registered Latino voters.
“Both parties need to pay attention to the issues that impact Latino and immigrant voters,” he said. “Now is the time not to sit back but to step forward. We need to get people out to vote in November. We can change the outcome of this election.”
Benito said the Congreso does not endorse candidates, but “legislators understand that we put people before profits.”
“We need to be very strategic about how we respond to attacks from the Right,” said Chris Espinoza, advocacy director for the Hispanic Federation, referring to anti-immigration laws being pushed by conservative politicians.
Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United American Citizens, referred to the anti-immigration initiatives as a “horrible victimization of our community.”
“The[American Dream] has eroded,” he said. “We didn’t ask for this battle, but the battle is upon us.”
Alonso Rivas, the regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund referred to anti-immigration laws as a “gloomy subject” and said he was concerned about the “threat of copycat laws throughout the U.S.” He said the Congreso aimed to counter these threats with unity and strategy.
The National Latino Congreso is an annual policy event first organized 2006. It was formed because “Congress was not doing what it needed to,” said Lydia Camarillo, vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project.
“We will make our definition of who we are and what we stand for,” Camarillo said.
The conference will run May 17-19.
Latino Leaders Gather in Chicago Before NATO
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