Latinos, who are now the largest minority group in the United States, are expected to play a major role in the 2012 elections, and And three of the nation’s largest civic organizations are teaming up to make sure that the voices of Hispanics are heard. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
The Hispanic Federation, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement launched "Movimiento Hispano" in Washington, D.C. last week, as part of a grassroots initiative to register new Hispanic voters and to help Latinos realize the importance of their vote.
"We still have a huge number of people who are eligible to vote and don't vote. Those numbers are staggering, in fact," said Jose Calderon of the Hispanic Federation. "We need to fundamentally change if we're going to progress as a community."
Using voter registration drives and Facebook, Movimiento Hispano will target states like New York and Texas with large Latino populations. They hope to increase Hispanic voter turnout by about 25 percent.
While the effort may officially be nonpartisan, organizers say it is essential to stem the tide of what they call an "anti-Hispanic sentiment" coming from some of the Republican presidential candidates.
"It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Latino community is under a serious attack," said Hector Sanchez of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. "Who wants to vote for a Republican when they are going to extreme levels attacking the basic aspect of working class?"
In response, Hispanic GOP leaders say they see this year’s election as an opportunity to welcome more Latin Americans into the party.
"I think that we are much more friendlier in our actions toward the Hispanic issues then maybe sometimes what our vocabulary tends to sound," said Juan Hernandez, the co-founder of Hispanic Republicans of Texas.
The challenge now for organizers is to meet their goal of registering as many as 200,000 new Hispanic voters.
"I think that this is a very exciting time. Hispanics can decide the elections in November," said Hernandez.
"We must take dramatic action, by mobilizing the Latino community to engage in the democratic process and elect political leaders who respect our vote and address our needs," said LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes.