Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Violence Against Women Act in limbo as parties weigh consequences of provision affecting important constituency: Hispanics (05-29-2012)
- Swing your hips, then swing the election (03-23-2012)
- Spurring Hispanic civic participation past election season (02-25-2012)
- GOP candidates court Hispanic vote to varying degrees (02-03-2012)
- Las Vegas Sol blog
- More Sun immigration coverage
- More Sun political news
A coalition of conservative groups has launched Nevada Hispanics, a new civic engagement organization throwing down the gauntlet with Democrats for the coveted Hispanic vote.
Wednesday morning, a series of speakers assailed President Barack Obama for failing to advance immigration reform, damaging the economy by restricting free enterprise and embracing liberal positions on social issues such as same-sex marriage.
“It’s time to say, ‘Enough with the lies, you failed us on immigration reform, and you are the most anti-immigrant president in the history of the United States,’” Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said to loud applause from the group gathered at the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce.
Nevada Hispanics is an initiative of American Principles in Action, an affiliate of American Principles Project, a conservative organization founded by Princeton University professor Robert George. Aguilar’s Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles also is affiliated with American Principles Project.
“Are we conservatives? You bet we are, if by a ‘conservative’ one means a believer in the rule of law, democracy, limited government, and respect for civil liberties, private property and the free market, equality of opportunity, the sanctity of human life, the protection of marriage and the family, and the defense of our nation’s sovereignty and security,” a statement on the American Principles Project website reads.
The current campaign from Nevada Hispanics, “Your Vote is Your Voice: Vote Your Values,” focuses on the November general election and is designed to turn out Latino voters. However, Nelson Santiago, the organization’s spokesman, said the group is here to stay and will remain active after the election.
“I think for far too long conservatives and Republicans have not paid enough attention to Latinos,” Aguilar said, later adding that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were two Republican presidents who successfully reached out to Latinos.
The campaign is also affiliated with conservative groups Americans for Prosperity; the Libre Initiative, which focuses on economic policy; and the Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights organization founded in 1942 that has progressively moved toward more conservative positions.
Michael Barrera, western regional director of the Libre Initiative, said the Occupy Wall Street movement should lay off corporations and focus their fury on big government.
“The government should not be picking winners and losers; it should be the free market that should pick winners and losers,” Barrera said. “We’ve got to let the free markets decide what’s best for us.”
Niger Innis, national spokesperson for the Congress of Racial Equality, attended the event and spoke. He told the audience the major parties terrorize minority communities with the politics of victimization.
“It’s unfortunate, in the minority community, we are often used as pawns,” Innis said. “Sometimes one political party writes us off: ‘We can’t get their vote.’ The other political party either takes us for granted or believes that the way to get us out to vote is to terrorize us. They say that the other political party is made up of Klan members. They say the other political party hates you. That’s nonsense, and it promotes a victimology that is not part of our essence as a people and a country.”
Aguilar said the Nevada Hispanics organization does not support “draconian” Arizona-style immigration laws, and he criticized the Obama administration’s relatively high rate of deportations. Aguilar said he supported the current form of the Dream Act but that a revised version expected from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had a better chance of passing.
“It’s an interesting message they are sending about victimization when we think about (GOP presidential hopeful Mitt) Romney, who wants to use what’s happening in Arizona as a model for immigration here, and that turns our people into criminals, separates their families and in essence creates a state of fear and panic where people are going to hide and retreat,” said Edith Fernandez, an Obama supporter who attended the event.
Fernandez said Nevada Hispanics’ statements on immigration do not align with Romney’s. Fernandez also balked at the idea posed by Aguilar that it was Obama and the Democrats who failed to pass immigration reform.
“It’s when tea party politics came in, injecting their tactics of fear that (the Dream Act) fell apart,” Fernandez said. “Romney’s proposal for self-deptoration is laughable. What kind of policy is that? It makes no sense.”
Several times throughout the event, various speakers used the phrase “vote your values,” and they criticized Obama’s positions on abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
“President Obama made abortion a U.S. export,” Aguilar said, referring to funding for international organizations that offer abortions. “Now we are funding organizations that are promoting and even practicing abortion in our own countries, in Mexico City ... and in other parts of Latin America.”
Polling of Latino voters shows they are much more likely to vote based on political issues and how government money should be spent than on social issues.
A strong majority, 63 percent, of Latino voters strongly disagree with religious leaders telling members which candidate to vote for, according to a recent impreMedia-Latino Decisions poll. Latinos have more of a distaste for mixing politics and religion than the general electorate, the poll found.
Aguilar said he was aware of such polling but that to get the most socially conservative voters you must spread a dual message that addresses both sets of issues.
Hispanics make up 15 percent of the Nevada electorate and are considered a crucial swing vote for winning the election in the Silver State.