Hispanic Conference Debates Immigration Policy's Effects On Latino Voters
On the heels of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, many of the country’s Hispanic leaders are gathering in a conference in Washington, D.C. to assess their political priorities and establish an agenda for the next four years. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
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Immigration reform was the hot topic at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's annual conference in Washington, D.C. Debating the subject at lunches and panels, lawmakers said it could be the "make or break" issue for many Hispanic voters heading to the polls in November.
"We see immigration, even if you yourself are not an immigrant, as an issue that is used to kind of attack us," said Democratic Congressman Jose Serrano of the Bronx. "So we kind of come together on that and say 'Don't do that.'"
Assessing the performances of the two parties at their national conventions, many conference-goers said Republicans failed to make an adequate case for the Hispanic vote.
"We felt that this was an opportunity for Republicans to actually acknowledge the importance of Hispanics in building the United States and being the major workforce of the future. And their only thoughts were 'How can we round them up and send them back to their place of origin?'" said CHCI attendee Gumecindo Salas.
With the passage of Arizona's controversial immigration law and the failed attempts by President Barack Obama's administration to pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented youth brought to the United States by their parents, immigration has been the source of much partisan debate in Washington.
Hispanic Democratic lawmakers believe they can use the issue to gain support for Obama during this week's conference.
"It’s not the Democratic Party that is leading and advocating and passing laws in the different states that definitely are not just anti-immigrant, but anti-Latino," said Democratic Congressman Charles Gonzalez of Texas.
While many CHCI are throwing their support behind Obama, they say they do not want the issue of immigration to be used to further divide the nation.
"This impacts all of us, but it also is poisoning what I believe is the social consciousness of America. And we need to stop it. It’s not healthy, it's not good," said Gonzalez.