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Immigration is now NO.1 latino issue, confirms NALEO

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Republican and Democratic architects are latticing strategies and spending millions in their political warfare over which party will take control of the 112th Congress next January.

Their successes on Nov. 2 election day will be rooted on how well their congressional candidates appeal to Latinos, reveals a new National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Official study,  

The Hispanic voting role will be most palpable in California, Colorado, Texas and Florida, says NALEO executive director Arturo Vargas. In those four competitive states, two-thirds of the nation's Hispanic registered voters reside. 

Overall, NALEO's Educational Fund projects at least 6.5 million Latinos will cast their ballots in November, a 17 percent increase over the last midterm congressional election.  

Among issues of greatest concern, immigration — often considered part of a Hispanic political litmus test — has quickly elevated to become No. 1 among Latino registered voters.  The NALEO survey, first shared with Hispanic Link News Service and other media July 20, showed 27 percent of the 1600 Hispanics polled — 400 in each of the four states — ranked immigration above unemployment, cost of living, health care and education.

By contrast, a January 2009 study by the Pew Hispanic Research Center showed Latinos were out of touch with immigration as a political issue despite the 2007 attempt by President Bush and the late Senator Edward Kennedy to pass a comprehensive reform bill.

Their efforts at that time were stalled by heightened racial rhetoric and what current White House director of intergovernmental affairs Cecilia Muñoz, then vice president of the National Council of La Raza, referred to as a "poisonous atmosphere."

Muñoz commented with foresight in 2007 that the impact of the failed Senate bill would pressure state and local governments to write their own immigration legislation.

As President Obama took office, Latinos ranked immigration sixth behind the economy, education, health care, national security and the environment, the Pew Hispanic Research survey showed. 

ThIs month's NALEO presentation, mediated by Vargas at the National Press Club pitted Democratic strategist María Cardona and GOP strategist Leslie Sánchez. Each described how their party would be affected by Hispanic influence in November.     

Cardona, a native of Bogotá, Colombia, now principal at the Dewey Square Group, said, "Latinos should definitely be looked at as a swing vote. We have seen some trends. Republicans should be very frightened."

On immigration, Cardona echoed the message delivered by Obama, in his July 1 speech when he addressed immigration for the first time since taking office. Cardona hammered home that advocacy groups and Hispanic organizations should vent their frustration on Republicans.

Afterwards, Sánchez told Hispanic Link that Obama's call to castigate the Republican Party for its inaction was just "political spin to mobilize a Democratic Latino base for November. It is a serious issue that needs serious attention, but not just a couple of months prior to an election."

Sánchez maintained that the immigration debate was "missing a lion" to push for a bill as late Sen. Ted Kennedy did in seeking support across the aisle. "Republicans want to see sincere efforts," she said.

Sánchez agreed the GOP should seek Hispanic support by being more inclusive, but she made it clear that the term "comprehensive" when attached to "immigration reform" is code for "amnesty."

Among Republicans, "that dog won't hunt," she said.

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Cardona countered by saying the word "comprehensive" is "the only thing that is going to get the ear of Latino voters."

The strategists acknowledged that Arizona and its immigration law SB1070, now being challenged in federal court, was the catalyst for the elevated interest in finding a national solution.

Sánchez and Cardona agreed that if the issue of immigration is not addressed in Washington soon, the year 2011 isn't likely to be a pleasant one.

The Pew Hispanic Research January 2009

  1. Economy
  2. Education
  3. Health care
  4. National Security
  5. Environment
  6. IMMIGRATION

NALEO Educational Fund July 2010

  1. IMMIGRATION
  2. Unemployment
  3. Cost of Living
  4. Health care
  5. Education

(Luis Carlos López cover national issues for Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C. Email [email protected])

©2010

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