Latino Groups Warn Congress to Fix Immigration, or Else

Julia Preston, New York Times, December 12, 2012

The nation’s largest Latino organizations warned Congress on Wednesday that they will keep a report card during the immigration debate next year, with plans to mobilize their voters against lawmakers who do not support a comprehensive immigration bill.

At a news conference here [in Washington, DC], seven Latino groups and one labor union were showing their muscle, after the record turnout of Hispanic voters in the November elections played a pivotal role in President Obama’s re-election victory.

Janet Murguía, the president of N.C.L.R., also known as the National Council of La Raza, said the election had been a “game-changer” that conclusively “made the political case for a bipartisan solution” on immigration.

“We have worked to build our power and now we intend to use it,” Ms. Murguía said. “The bottom line,” she said, “is that Latino voters went to the polls with the economy on their minds but with immigration reform in their hearts.”

The leaders made it clear they expect quick action in 2013. They said the president and Congress should take up an immigration bill soon after Mr. Obama’s inauguration in January, with an eye toward completing passage of legislation by August.

The leaders said they would continue a joint campaign they led this year to naturalize Latino immigrants and to register and mobilize Latino voters. They said they would send results from the report card to those voters, to galvanize them during the debate and to guide their choices in the midterm elections in 2014.

“Make no mistake, we will be watching,” said Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, which led one of the most extensive Latino voter drives. The report card will show “who stood with us and who stood against us” on immigration reform, Mr. Medina said.

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“Failure is not an option,” Mr. Medina said. “Comprehensive immigration reform is going to happen. Whether it will be over the political bodies of some of the current members of Congress,” he said, “only they can decide.”

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