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|AGIF debates presidential election politics|
|By David Conde|
The American G.I. Forum (AGIF) celebrated its annual conference in Denver over the past weekend. Aside from the business sessions, the conference featured a debate between Republican and Democratic leaders in the state.
The Republican panelists included Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, Martín Méndez and Pauline Olivera from the Colorado Hispanic Republicans, Rick Palacios, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party and attorneys Joseph Salazar and Justin Herrera. The topics discussed were the economy, jobs, the national deficit and immigration reform.
Putting immigration at the end raised the anticipation in many in the audience especially when it came to talking about the DREAM Act. This reminded me of Bruce Catton’s book “The Civil War” that speaks about the reasons President Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in rebel held territory when he did on Sept. 22, 1862 followed by the formal one on Jan. 1 the following year.
It was a matter of timing as Lincoln could not go forward and declare freedom for Blacks in the South without a victory. The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest and closest to a victory at that point in the war offered the opportunity to the president.
Latinos have over 24 million eligible voters for this presidential election. Even though less than 13 million are projected to actually vote, they are poised to make the difference in key battleground states that will determine the winner this fall.
Both political parties realize that and are making a concerted effort to bring Latinos to their side. At the AGIF debate, it was evident that the Democrats have a head start for historical reasons.
At the same time, the Republicans have not done themselves any favors as they continue to justify their anti-immigrant stance and gloss over discriminatory laws and public insults from conservative radio and television among others. Having said that, it was very evident that the Republican panelists were looking for an effective way to connect with Latinos in the audience and did succeed in pointing out that Latino traditions coincide with conservative values.
Nationally, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio initiated a process in Congress to create another version of the DREAM Act. This came during the time that he began to be mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate.
When President Obama announced that his administration was going to exercise discretion in regards to young people that would have been covered under the DREAM Act, Sen. Rubio decided not to continue his initiative in Congress. That was unfortunate because one of the reasons he may be considered for the vice presidential spot is his ability to attract Latino votes and his successful sponsorship of this legislation may have gone a long way in making that possible.
To have Rubio become a Republican candidate for vice president would be historic. However, it is true that the Cuban immigration history is not compatible with the history of the rest of the Latino immigrant community.
It is one thing for a Cuban immigrant to show up on the coast of Florida and be deemed legal and another for a Mexican or Central American to show up on America’s southern border and be deemed illegal. It would be difficult for Rubio to bridge that gap without a genuine effort to relate such as finding common cause with the Latino Dreamers.
The Republican-Democrat debate at the AGIF conference reveals that the timing for reaching out to the Latino community is at hand. Like Lincoln, we have to take advantage of the moment.
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