Saturday, July 7, 2012 | 6:33 p.m.
When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took the stage for a speech at the National Council of La Raza convention Saturday at Mandalay Bay, the crowd rose and welcomed him with an ovation.
Representatives from community organizations from across the U.S. affiliated with NCLR, a national Hispanic civil rights advocacy organization, showered him with applause and some even shouted “I love you.” They seemed to be waiting in anticipation to hear him speak.
Holder headlined a group of speakers that included Nevada Democratic Senatorial candidate Shelley Berkley and NCLR President Janet Murguia. The event kicked off this year’s annual convention, which runs through Tuesday. The convention offers booths and workshops for organization members and the public to learn about Hispanic civil rights, encourage voting and take part in other informational seminars.
Holder spoke to the crowd for nearly 20 minutes. He focused on the successes of the Civil Rights Division and support of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. The crowd applauded Holder as he touted the division’s record filing criminal civil rights cases.
“I look to assure you that we will fight to protect the civil rights of all,” Holder said in his speech. “This organization will never have a more committed partner than the United States Department of Justice.”
He also talked about enforcing the Hate Crimes Act and holding financial institutions responsible for discriminating against blacks and Latinos when approving loans. He touched on proving parts of Arizona’s immigration law unconstitutional, and with loud applause, support of the Dream Act.
“We can all be encouraged that President (Barack) Obama and other members of his administration, including me, will keep working with congressional leaders from both parties to advance critical legislation like the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform,” Holder said. “My colleagues and I will continue to draw from the legacy that organizations like NCLR have helped to shape.”
Berkley also addressed the largely Hispanic crowd to earn more support as she runs for Senate. A Latino Decisions poll, which tracks Latinos’ political support for each state, indicated Berkley has less Latino supporters than the president and the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in Nevada.
The current Nevada U.S. Representative touted her support of middle-class values and job creation in Nevada, such as her role in bringing a Veterans Hospital that would create 1,800 jobs from medical to construction positions. She received her biggest applause for supporting the Dream Act.
“She talked about some of the issues that they’re having and she inspired hope … Is she getting the (Hispanic) support? I believe she will,” said Larry Williams, who works for the U.S. Vets in Las Vegas. “I believe this was a wonderful opportunity for her to address the Hispanic population.”
When the speeches finished, and Holder received one last round of applause, the crowd split off to attend various convention booths and seminars. Elvira Hernandez, who represented the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, said the luncheon was the perfect meal to prepare for the start of the convention.
“To be able to come to (this) luncheon, it just like gets you pumped up and ready to go to the workshops,” Hernandez said.