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Attendees during the 36th Annual NALEO Conference. Photo: Samuel Navarro
A general view fo the Grand Ballroom during the National Leadership Luncheon at the NALEO 36th Annual Conference at the Intercontinental Hotel Miami in Downtown Miami, Florida, Thursday, June 20, 2019. Photo: Samuel Navarro

NALEO Annual Conference kicks off in Miami

The NALEO 36th Annual Conference is the nation's largest and most prestigious gathering of Latino elected and appointed officials. 

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Eight out of 23. 

That’s the number of Democratic presidential candidates that have agreed to participate in a forum Friday, June 20, at the 36th annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). The three-day conference of the largest gathering in the nation of Latino policymakers is taking place at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami.

The highlight of the gathering that drew more than 1,000 Latino elected officials — from school board members to mayors — and other policymakers from across the country is expected to be a Democratic presidential candidate forum Friday at the Telemundo Center headquarters in Doral, Florida. 

Former U.S. HUD Secretary Julian Castro, the only Latino running for president, is part of a field of eight candidates that include U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobucher and Bernie Sanders; U.S. House of Representative Eric Swalwell; former U.S. House Representative Beto O’Rourke; John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado; and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

“The road to the White House runs through the Latino community,” said Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO in a prepared statement, “making it vital for candidates vying for the nation’s highest office in the land to engage with local and state Latino leaders who are on the frontlines tackling America’s most pressing challenges.”

Notably, high profile candidates who won’t be attending the forum include Joe Biden, former Vice President under Barack Obama; Tom Bennett, a U.S. Senator from Colorado; Cory Booker, a U.S. Senator from New Jersey; Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City; Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S senator from New York; Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator from California; and Tim Ryan, a Congressman from Ohio.

The other hot and controversial issue that will be discussed on Friday: the citizenship question the Trump administration wants to add to the 2020 U.S. Census.

“This plenary session will address what kind of an impact the Latino electorate could have on the presidential election, how an undercount could influence redistricting and reapportionment, and what steps the Latino community and its leadership are taking to self-mobilize for the decennial census and Presidential Elections, both of which take place within months of each other.”

A ruling this week by a federal judge in Maryland blocked the question but the Supreme Court may decide the issue, although the timing is uncertain. The Census Bureau plans to finalize census questionnaires and start printing paper forms for the national head count by July 1. The census panel will feature outspoken Latino elected officials, such as California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, co-chair of the National Latino Commission Census 2020. The commission released a report May 22 in Washington, D.C. warning that adding the citizenship question as well as going digital with the census and allowing people to respond online will lead to an undercount in Latino communities. The commission held hearings in California, New York, Ohio and Florida and heard from activists in those communities.

Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Republicans, have said they support including the citizenship question, prompting Vargas this week to call them “irresponsible.”

Other topics being addressed at the NALEO conference include mental health, affordable housing and criminal justice reforms. The conference runs through Saturday, June 22.

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