For many in the Hispanic community, it has become a time of high anxiety, said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.
The debate over immigration, once simmering, has now begun to boil: This year’s struggle over comprehensive immigration reform legislation drew out impassioned voices on both sides.
Local laws and ordinances are sprouting up to make Latinos feel harassed and discriminated against, she said.
She said the failure of efforts to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform has led to local laws that imperil the rights of Hispanics.
A directive issued by Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt is an example, she said. Blunt ordered the Missouri Highway Patrol to check the immigration status of anyone who is arrested and in some cases, only stopped.
“We are in real trouble. . . . This is not just a political debate anymore,” she said to an audience of more than 35 people. “It’s now getting personal.”
She also said that an alliance of Hispanic organizations was “going to be ramping up our efforts” to use new media and the Internet and would offer downloadable tool kits and tips on how to get their message out.
Murguía emphasized that political power would no longer be the only kind of power Latino leaders would be willing to exercise.
“We have political power, but we have growing economic power we can leverage, and we can speak with our economic power as well,” she said.
She said that in the past several years, Hispanic leaders have learned to focus less on boycotts and more on targeted economic strategies.