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Archive for October, 2008

Two Men, One Very Important Choice

Today, we are proud to present a special edition of our Guest Blogger Series featuring two accomplished Latinos. On the Democratic side Elisa Montoya, who is currently serving as National Director of Latino Outreach for the Obama for America Campaign, makes the case for Barack Obama. In our second piece,The National Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Raul “Danny” Vargas explains to us why he believes John McCain is the best choice for Latinos. Whether you are Republican or Democrat we hope that these pieces help you make a more informed decision on Tuesday. We would also like to thank Mr.Arturo Vargas for informing our readers of the efforts that are underway to ensure that Latinos exercise their right to vote. As well as Ms.Sylvia Trujillo for reminding us that our voting rights must be protected in order to ensure fair elections.

Remember, Ya Es Hora, VE Y VOTA!

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By: Elisa Montoya-National Latino Outreach Director, Obama for America

On November 4th, Latinos will go to the polls and make their voices heard, many of them for the first time, in one of the most important and historic elections of our generation. I believe that Latinos should give that vote to Senator Obama.

Senator Obama’s message of hope, opportunity and bringing real change to our country is one that strongly resonates with Latino voters. We have been disproportionately hit by the current economic crisis and the failed economic policies of the past eight years. With a nearly eight percent unemployment rate and one of the highest home foreclosure rates, Latinos understand just how critical this election is. Many of us have worked so hard, taking on extra jobs but are still falling further behind.

Latinos believe in the American Dream – whether you are a recently arrived immigrant or your family has been here for generations. But the sad truth is that the American Dream – El Sueño Americano – has become more elusive as our families struggle just to make ends meet. Our country is going in the wrong direction for too many of us – and Senator Obama’s policies will put us back on track to make sure the American Dream is still accessible to us and to our children and grand children for many generations to come.

Latinos are so inherently optimistic. We have faith in God, our families, and the hard work we do each and every day to provide for all of those we love. Senator Obama’s message is based on that kind of optimism. The strength of this country was built on the notion that there is nothing we cannot achieve if we work together in pursuit of our common dreams and common purpose. We are a country that was founded on the notion that if we work hard and play by the rules, that the American Dream is attainable for all of us. Yet George Bush, with John McCain at his side, has not been on the side of the middle class and has put that dream farther and farther out of reach for too many. He has been on the side of big corporations while the working class and the middle class have been forgotten.

As President, Senator Obama will make sure that the next four years don’t look like the last eight. He will put the working class and the middle class first, by providing meaningful tax relief and by creating jobs. An Obama administration will also cut taxes for the vast majority of small businesses and support policies that will enable minority entrepreneurs to take that first step to running their own business. He will also provide immediate relief to homeowners who are facing foreclosure or struggling to make mortgage payments by enacting a 90 day moratorium on home foreclosures for homeowners who are making a good-faith effort to make their mortgage payments and re-negotiate their mortgages. Senator Obama will give hard working people the breathing room they need to get back on their feet during this time of crisis.

One out of three Latinos does not have access to good health care. A Barack Obama administration will make access to health care a priority so that mothers no longer have to go to bed worried that they cannot afford to care for a sick child. And he will fight for better education in our public schools to ensure that a good education, which is the pillar to a brighter future, is accessible to all our families regardless of where they live or how much money they make.

In short, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will not only put the American Dream back within our reach, but also will provide Latinos and all Americans with the tools they need to give their families, and their children and grandchildren a better, brighter future.

And I do believe that this is a compelling enough reason for all of us to vote on November 4th.

Elisa Montoya is currently serving as National Latino Outreach Director for the Obama for America Campaign. Ms. Montoya has a broad political background. She was director of technology and economic opportunity policy for the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign in 2004. She also served as Legal Counsel to Senators Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). She received her J.D./M.A. in 2000 from the University of Southern California Law Center and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication.

We would like thank Elisa Montoya and the Barack Obama for America Campaign for participating in our guest blogger series. We commend them on their continued efforts to reach out to the Latino community.

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By: Raul “Danny” Vargas, National Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly

Our nation is in the midst of a financial crisis, we are fighting two wars, there are groups plotting new terrorist attacks, and we face serious challenges domestically. At this critical moment in our history we need a President with experience who has demonstrated the ability to lead in times of crisis. Our best choice is clearly Senator John McCain.

A true American hero, John McCain entered the Naval Academy at 17 and has been serving his country ever since. A Vietnam War veteran who served five and a half years as a prisoner of war, refusing early release out of respect for those who served longer as POW’s. He was beaten and tortured and his body was broken—but his spirit never was.

Over the last 25 years in the Congress and the Senate John McCain has always put the best interests of the country first. He was reached across the isle to work with Democratic leaders to push bi-partisan reforms. He has led the fight to pass immigration reform, campaign finance reform, control wasteful government spending and even the normalization of relations with Vietnam—that shows real character and leadership. He has had the courage to stand up to his own Party and his own President when necessary. He led the efforts to change the strategy in Iraq and as a result violence is down significantly and we can now look to remove our combat forces with dignity and victory.

John McCain is a friend to the Hispanic community. He was born in the Republic of Panama into a military family. He typically wins over 70% of the Hispanic vote in his border state of Arizona. Hispanics have been among his closest friends and advisors throughout his career and it was John McCain who said in the primaries that Hispanics in the U.S. are children of God and should be respected. He shares our values, cares about our families and will make sure we have a strong future.

He has traveled to Latin America on several occasions including investing the time to visit Colombia and Mexico during this presidential campaign. He fully supports the passage of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, knowing this is in our economic and security best interests and vital from a geo-political perspective. Colombia has been one of our staunchest friends and allies in the region and has made phenomenal progress in human rights and safety of labor leaders. He supports the passage of free trade with Panama as well. He understands that free and fair trade are important tools to help stimulate economic growth and when combined other assistance programs (education, health, democratic reform, etc.) the U.S. has the ability to provide real support to our friends in Latin America.

As President, he will ensure we grow our economy, keep our taxes low, control wasteful government spending, and help those impacted by the current crisis. He will maintain a strong national defense. His background and strength are known around the world and those who intend to do us harm will not want to test the courage and resolve of this American hero. He has a proven record of implementing reforms, not just talking about them.

For the office of President of the United States, the most important and powerful job on the planet, John McCain has the character, credibility and capability to lead us now and into the future.

Raul “Danny” Vargas is a self-made success story, in spite of growing up poor in the inner city, he worked hard and became a prominent business leader. He is the founder and president of VARCom Solutions, a marketing and communications consultancy firm. Previously he served as AOL’s Vice President for Latin America, where he led the company’s business activities in the region. A life long Republican, Danny is a member of the RNC Chairman Mike Duncan’s Hispanic advisory board, a role he also held under former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman

We would like to thank Mr.Vargas for his participation in his guest blogger series and for sharing his opinions with our readers. We congratulate him for serving as an example of Latino leadership that is sure to inspire the next generation of Latinos.

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Feet in Two Worlds, reports that in an exclusive interview with the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion, the Democratic candidate said he intends to “guarantee that [immigration reform] will not be used as a political football” and added that he was “committed” to putting together “a recipe” for immigration reform “starting in my first year” in the presidency.

This is great news for Latinos who have flocked to Democrats this year partly due to the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric that has stemmed from certain members of the Republican Party. However, later in the interview Barack Obama also warns that with the current crisis facing the nation he will have to prioritize this issue before tackling illegal immigration.

Feet in Two Worlds also reported , that In his chat with reporter Maribel Hastings of L.A. newspaper La Opinión, Obama warned that if elected president he would have to “deal with some more urgent issues at the start of his term.” But Obama gave assurances that he is still committed to pushing forward immigration reform during his first year in office.

In this same interview Barack Obama also added that he filmed an ad in Spanish that was released earlier this week because he wants to assure Latino voters that he is interested in them and wanted to speak directly to them. He added that his “plans to develop infrastructure would create thousands of jobs”, thus helping to decrease the high unemployment rate that is currently at 8% for Latinos, that is 2 points higher than the national umemployement rate which stands at 6%. He also said that this would help the Hispanic community since it would involved “building new schools, in areas where there is overpopulation in schools”

Barack Obama made it very clear what choice Latinos face when he said, “if people are satisfied with the way things have been going they should choose John McCain who is offerring the same policies of George W Bush. ”

We hope that Barack Obama is able to maintain his commitment to the Latino community when it comes to immigration. It will be a daunting task given the many challenges that he will face if he is elected next Tuesday.Republicans seem to have lost the trust of the Latino community when it comes to this issue and the rhetoric of many Republicans seems to have pushed Latinos to the Democratic Party . On the other hand, Democrats should take note of this and make sure they do not take the Latino vote for granted. Barack Obama’s actions once he takes office will determine what happens in years to come.

Read the interview in Spanish: El Diario La  Prensa NY

Alternet.org

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It is the question that undoubtedly came to mind to many Latinos last week as Republican Vice Presidential Nominee, Sarah Palin explained how excited she was to visit the “real America.” At a fundraiser in North Carolina she declared that she loved to visit the “pro-America” areas of the country. She added, “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America.”

These statements lead to the question of what is the “real America” ? Are Latinos who are in no way a heterogenous group, a part of the GOP’s “Real America.”? Upon further consideration it seems that for Latinos that question has alredy been answered…

The real america has arrived and it consists of changing electorate that includes a growing Latino population that is substantially younger than the rest of country so our influence will only continue to grow. However some may resist this change and claim that Latinos indeed have no influence elections such as Rodolfo de la Garza, a political science professor at Columbia University and vice president-research with the Los Angeles-based Tomas Rivera Policy Institute who recently said that in article titled the Myth of the Latino Vote ,that “(The Latino vote) is completely irrelevant. According to him”The myth was created by Latino leaders who wanted to convince politicians nationally about how important Latinos were.”

The reality is that the growing influence of Latinos has never been more apparent than during this election cycle. Proof is that both presidential campaings have spend an impressive amount of money in advertising on Latino networks, such as Univision. The changing electorate also tells a compelling story. According to a recent report by the Immigration Policy Center,

New Americans, the fastest-growing voting bloc, are naturalized immigrants, mostly Hispanic, and the U.S.-born children of immigrants since 1965. While the national voter registration rate rose 11.3 percent from 1996 to 2004, the new American sign-up rate jumped almost 60 percent, according to Paral. And they vote, too. In 2006, more than 7.3 million new Americans — two-thirds of those registered — cast ballots.

This includes many Latinos who have become engaged in the political process and with the help of organizations such as NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) have registered to vote and are ready to exercise their right to vote next Tuesday.

“America, the nation of immigrants, “is alive and well,” said Angela Kelley, director of the Immigration Policy Center. “They are naturalizing in record numbers, they swear allegiance to the United States, are registering to vote and are expected to turn out in an unprecedented force.”

The changing face of the “Real America” is undeniable and so is the growing influence of the Latino vote. The “Real America” is also a land of constant change. Latinos have gained more power in determining the outcome of elections. Now it is up to us to use that power to demonstrate once and for all that Latinos are here to stay.

Politico.com

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Latinas have made great strides in increasing their political participation and are increasingly running for office. However we must not be complacent and continue to increase the number of Latinas who vote and run for office. This report  written by Teresita Rodriguez from the Center for American Progress Action Fund demonstrates that Latinas and their children are still earning less than their females of other races and more likely to live in poverty…

While Latinas have increasingly been more involved in politics, they are still not as engaged as they could be. In the 2004 election, 40 percent of Latinas who were U.S. citizens were not registered to vote. If every eligible Latina had voted, the turnout would have increased by 4.2 million votes.

The good news is that Latina women have been making inroads in the American political landscape. Over the past three presidential elections, the number of Latina voters has steadily increased. From 1996 to 2004, votes by Latinas increased by 51 percent, from 2.7 million to 4.1 million. Latinas also turn out to vote in slightly higher numbers than their male counterparts. In 2004, for example, 45 percent of the male Latino electorate voted, compared to 49 percent of Latina women.

Latinas are also increasingly choosing a career in politics. Between 1996 and 2007, the number of Latinas elected to office nationally and locally increased by 74 percent, compared to a 25 percent increase among their male counterparts. The percentage of the Latina share of all Latino elected officials jumped from 24 percent in 1996 to 31 percent in 2007. Currently, there are 75 Latina state legislators in the United States, which includes 20 senators and 51 representatives serving 22 states.

Considering the significant challenges Latinas currently face, it is time to make our voices heard at the polls. Today:

  • Latinas are much more likely to live in households with lower incomes than their non-Hispanic counterparts (53 percent compared to 34 percent).
  • Latinas are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty compared to non-Hispanic women.
  • Latinas are nearly three times as likely to lack health insurance compared to their white counterparts.

This year an estimated 17.9 million Latinos are eligible to vote, and 9.1 million of them are women. It’s not just the size of this electorate that can sway the direction of the upcoming election—it’s where Latinos live that will also play a critical role. Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico all have significant Latino populations and all of these states are expected to have closely contested elections.

While over 9 million Latina women are eligible to vote in the upcoming election, it’s projected that only 54 percent will actually cast a ballot. This year, let’s defy expectations!

Latinas can make a huge difference in this election. Consider what happened in 2000, when the presidential election was decided in a state-by-state contest for electoral votes. George W. Bush prevailed over Al Gore in the Florida recount by only 537 votes.

We simply cannot continue to tolerate the status quo. So let’s get out the vote and make our voices heard. Every vote really does make a difference, and for Latinas, there is too much at stake to stay home this November.

Hermanas, Lets get out there and vote! We can all do our part. Call your amigas, mothers,sisters, cousins, comadres, co-workers and remind them to get out there and vote on or before November 4th.

Latinas and the 2008 Election, CAPAC

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This week Barack Obama makes his final push with Latino voters with the launching of an ad featuring him speaking directly to the camera in Spanish, a first for any presidential candidate. In addition tomorrow night, Univision will air his 30 minute in Spanish message along with other major English Language networks.”Barack Obama: Historias Americanas,” or “Barack Obama: American Stories,” will air at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time (7 p.m. Central and Mountain time), along with the English-language versions on CBS, Fox and NBC. Meanwhile polls and testimonials continue to show that many Latinos in swing states may have already been convinced he is the best choice for them….

The William C. Velasquez Institute, a nonpartisan public policy center in Los Angeles, analyzed polling data from the three Western states and Florida. It found that Latino voters provided no advantage to either side in Florida despite long-standing support for the Republican Party by Cuban Americans.

In the Western states, the Latino vote is growing in size and as a percentage of the total, and it is favoring the Democratic Party more than in previous years.Latinos make up 32.4% of registered voters in New Mexico, 11.4% in Nevada and 9.9% in Colorado. The institute examined data from eight polling firms and found that Obama’s lead over McCain in Nevada would be 42.4% to 40.7% without Latino voters — a difference that’s within the margin of error. Include Latino voters, however, and Obama’s lead grows to 50%, versus 43% for McCain.

That only tells part of the story, according to Antonio Gonzalez, president of the institute. In the last presidential election, 60% of Latinos in Nevada voted for Democratic candidate John F. Kerry and 40% for Bush. This time, polls show a 7- to 10-point increase for Obama.”Two things are happening: The Latino vote is growing, and there’s a bigger margin of support for Obama,” Gonzalez said. “The Latino vote has been important in New Mexico for a long time, and it continues to grow, but in Nevada and Colorado, this is new.”In New Mexico, McCain has a 4-point lead without Latino voters, and Obama has an 8-point lead with the Latino vote. And in Colorado, a statistical tie without Latinos jumps to 51% for Obama versus 45% for McCain when Latinos are included.

Meanwhile, stories on the ground in swing states reveal that Latinos may believe that Barack Obama is will be more apt to handle the economic crisis that has affected many Latinos.

In Nevada in the last days of the campaign, Republicans and Democrats are walking precincts with lists of registered Latino voters who may be the key to victory in the Western battleground states, and this is what they are finding: padlocks on front doors, “bank owned” placards in the yards and, among those still in their homes, growing support for Barack Obama’s promise of change.

The Spanish-speaking canvassers — immigrants or children of immigrants themselves — come face to face with a frayed American dream. Many residents who answer an earnest knock say they have lost their hotel and casino jobs and are selling their cars while awaiting eviction notices.

“I’m for Obama,” Gustavo Mora, 64, told a Republican campaign worker on his doorstep last week. “I’m losing my house. That one next door is gone. Across the street, Chinese people bought that house. . . . The economy is so bad, and I am afraid [John] McCain has the same ideas as President Bush, since he’s a Republican too.”

Miriam Mora-Barajas, 26, responded that McCain understands the needs of entrepreneurs like Mora, who owns two ice cream trucks, and that the candidate opposes raising taxes on small businesses because it means they will have less money to invest.

But Mora said he didn’t have money to invest as it was, and he wondered how he would rent an apartment with a credit record showing he defaulted on his home loan.

“We know Obama is younger and less experienced, but the country needs a change,” Mora said.

Mora’s views are reflected in recent polls that show Latino voters could provide the margin of victory for Obama in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico — states that went for President Bush in 2004 and that account for 19 electoral votes. If either candidate sweeps the big states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, he could win without these Western states. But if the bigger states are split, each candidate would probably need the Western states for an electoral college victory.

The importance of those states was underscored last Saturday, when the McCain and Obama campaigns made stops in New Mexico and Nevada.

The McCain campaign had hoped to grow support among conservative Latinos by emphasizing “family values” issues, such as his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, as well as the candidate’s history of support for comprehensive immigration overhaul. For Fernando Romero, a Latino Democrat and political commentator, these were decisive factors.”I am antiabortion and pro-life, and I believe what McCain said at Saddleback Church: that life begins at conception,” Romero said at a McCain field office in a Las Vegas shopping center. “It is difficult to turn my back on John McCain.”

Both parties are advertising heavily on Spanish-language radio and television. At McCain headquarters, they are distributing “Estamos Unidos: McCain” bumper stickers and “Latinas con McCain” lawn signs. At the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, meanwhile, dozens of workers loaded up on Obama door hangers and bilingual lists of groups offering food, healthcare and foreclosure aid.

Among those pounding the pavement for Obama were Santos Garcia, who voted for George H.W. Bush before the Persian Gulf War turned him into a Democrat, and Irma Sanchez, who, like a majority of Nevada Democrats, supported Hillary Rodham Clinton in the state’s January caucus. Jairo Bermudez was another canvasser, but like many Latinos, he is not yet a citizen and therefore is ineligible to vote. All three are casino shop stewards working for the union in favor of Obama.At one house, Garcia was surprised to find that the registered voter was Jose Torres, 46, an old friend and former colleague in Washington state whom he hadn’t seen in years. Both were butchers there before heading south to better-paying jobs in desert casinos.Torres said he had lost his job at Caesars Palace when tourism began to drop off nine months ago. He got another job at Trump International Hotel and Tower but was laid off three months ago. He pointed to two Ford Malibus in the frontyard and said he was trying to make a living buying and selling automobiles. It wasn’t enough. “I’m going to lose this house,” Torres said.

Garcia asked Torres whom he would vote for.“Por el moreno,” Torres said, using a respectful word for a black man. “He’s the best. The other one is just going to keep helping the rich.”

Garcia, 59, said he encounters Latinos worried that if Obama wins, African Americans will feel empowered and lord their status over Latinos, particularly at work. Other voters, however, argue that anyone who has faced discrimination would be good for all minorities.

As the sun went down, children came out to ride bikes, and men gathered in a frontyard on Samantha Street to usher in the evening with Bud Light and ranchera music.

“How can McCain say the economy is strong the way we are here?” asked Jesus Veliz, 42, who works in a Mexican restaurant. “We’re not only worse off here in the United States, but back in Mexico they’re worse off than before.”

The others nodded. They worked in an Italian restaurant, at a casino and at a construction company but worried that the work might not last beyond the election.

“No hay bisnes,” said Ivan Rodriguez, 25. “If there’s no business, they don’t make money, and we don’t work.”

As these testimonials reveal Latinos prefer Barack Obama for the same reason other Americans do, his stance on economic issues and his claim that he will be an agent of change in Washington. As his most recent ad reveals he has come a long way when it comes to Latino outreach. The fears that Latinos who showed strong support for Hilllary Clinton would turn to McCain instead of Barack Obama once he became the nominee did not become a reality. Barack Obama has made real efforts to reach out to Latino the proof is this ad in which he speaks to Spanish speaking Latinos in their native Language. Democratic Miami Mayor Manny Diaz commented on a conference call with reporters today that tomorrow’s 30 minute program” is testament to the campaign’s outreach to the Hispanic community.” Barack Obama’s 30 minute media buy is unprecedented even among the English networks. The fact that he is also making this media buy in a Spanish language network is a strong testament to the importance that Latinos have this election cycle

Los Angeles Times

The Trail

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