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New Report on the Latino Vote Should Be Bedside Reading for Any Politician

In nearly 20% of U.S. House districts, Latinos make up more than 25% of the voters. We are a growing a force throughout the country that every politician must respect if they are to win office.
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Despite the snow storm that closed down Washington, DC and the federal government today, our friends at America's Voice, an advocacy group working with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) to fight for realistic and comprehensive immigration reform, released a new report on the Latino vote in 2010. The report, The Power of the Latino Vote in the 2010 Elections (They Tipped Elections in 2008; Where Will They Be in 2010?) , shows among other things that in nearly 20% of U.S. House districts, Latinos make up more than 25% of the voters, and we are growing as a force throughout the country that every politician must respect if they are to win office. In addition to Frank Sharry, Executive Director and Founder of America's Voice, I was joined in a telephonic press conference this morning by Eliseo Medina, International Vice President of the nation's largest and fastest-growing labor union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who said that the new report should be bedside reading for any politicians seeking office this year.

Below is an excerpt of my opening statement at today's press conference:

America is a country of mutts, a lovable breed without a pure pedigree that has put together the best country there is. And Latinos have been a part of that story from day one, an integral part of America's past, present, and future.

Latinos are a national community and our vote matters. Although many think of Latinos only when they think of California, New York, or Texas, we are a growing part of the electorate everywhere. We are the fastest-growing population, and we are the youngest population.

We are not firmly Democratic, and we have not been definitively pushed away by Republicans yet. Our 18-year-olds are registering to vote, our immigrants are becoming new Americans, our citizens are turning out on Election Day, and the NCLR and its network of community-based organizations are working to ensure that that process continues and grows. What matters to us ought to matter to any wise politician seeking office.

Between 2004 and 2008 alone, Latino voting grew by 30%, adding more than two million voters to the American electorate (a change from 7.5 to 9.7 million). Just look at Senator Hagan's victory in North Carolina or Senator McCain's victory in the Florida GOP primary in 2008 and you can see that the Latino vote is a decisive factor in American politics.

As it is for all Americans, the economy is the biggest concern for Latinos. We want hard-hit communities to get the help they need, jobs that let us provide for our families with pride, and the ability to keep the home we worked so hard to achieve. We want health care that doesn't break the family bank, schools that work, and safe streets.

And there is something else we deeply care about: Respect. That is why immigration reform--and how it is debated and too often maligned--is so important to us.

Like all Americans, we are concerned about an immigration system in chaos that politicians continue to talk about but do painfully little to fix, actively thwarting or ignoring real solutions. We want a legal system with smart enforcement and laws that people follow, one that upholds our national values of family unity and hard work. A system where employers cannot undercut American jobs and wages. A system that once and for all rejects the notion that we can massively detain and deport a population about the size of Pennsylvania, and instead gets them on the books and paying taxes. Policy-wise, reform could not be more urgent.

And we also want a stop to the use of this issue to reject the everyday contributions of Latinos across the board and deny our place as brothers and sisters in the American family. These affronts have energized Latinos toward citizenship, toward the voting booth, and away from those who are demonizing this community.

That is why the hope for immigration reform has been a powerful force behind the Latino vote. Like all Americans voters, Latinos believe it's time for politicians to stop playing politics with a problem we could have solved a long time ago. And as all voters, we will hold accountable those in either party who engage in obstruction or avoidance.