Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign announced on Friday that it has hired a veteran Latino rights activist as its Latino outreach director, marking an escalation of the campaign’s efforts to shore up a constituency that has yet to warm to his candidacy.
Arturo Carmona, who was executive director of Presente.org, a Los Angeles-based online Latino advocacy group active in the immigration reform fight, will also serve as Sanders’ Southwest political director.
“I am going to work hard to build a strong team that can connect Bernie’s campaign with Latino families,” Carmona said in a statement released by the Sanders campaign. “As the son of an immigrant, his story resembles that of millions of Latinos in the U.S.”
Carmona said that Sanders’ positions on economic inequality, climate change and criminal justice policy -- not just immigration reform -- will resonate with Latino voters.
“Latinos need to be part of the political revolution that Sen. Sanders is calling for,” Carmona said.
Sanders is ahead of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in some polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, and now rivals the Clinton campaign in fundraising, but he has struggled to attract the support of African-Americans and Latinos.
Clinton enjoys the support of 57 percent of black and brown Democrats nationwide, according to a Sept. 14 ABC News/Washington Post poll, while Sanders has the backing of just 13 percent.
Sanders drew criticism from immigration reform activists in July with comments implying that expanding some forms of legal immigration would threaten American jobs. (None, however, denied Sanders’ support for comprehensive immigration reform, which he voted for in 2013.)
Carmona’s hiring is the latest in a series of moves by the Sanders campaign aimed at assuaging Latinos’ concerns and winning their support. Sanders told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Thursday that he supports granting some undocumented immigrants eligibility to purchase health care coverage on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges.
Sanders hired Lilia Chacon, a former press secretary to the Chicago city treasurer and the daughter of two immigrants from central America, as his Iowa press secretary, in September.
Sanders’ Latino outreach efforts mirror attempts to address African-American concerns about his candidacy. Sanders hired African-American criminal justice organizer Symone Sanders as his campaign press secretary in August, after Black Lives Matter activists argued that Sanders was focusing on economic equality to the exclusion of racial justice.
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