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Latino Leaders Should Step Up

El Diario/La Prensa, Editorial, Staff Posted: Jan 29, 2009

Editor's Note: An editorial in New York's Spanish-language El Diario/La Prensa calls on Latino politicians to take a stand against the recent appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand as the new U.S. Senator from New York. Latinos have come too far, editors write, to accept a senator who espouses the kind of positions that Latinos have been fighting against for years.

NEW YORK -- In the 2006 and 2008 elections, Hispanic voters sent a clear message to Washington: reform immigration and stop allowing immigrants to be used as scapegoats.

Desperate families at risk of being separated took part in a Harlem assembly earlier this month to remind elected representatives of this mandate. With the economic crisis, immigration reform becomes even more urgent for the well-being of millions of families.

But through Governor David Patersons vetting process, our state now has a senator who espouses the kind of positions that Latinos have fought against for the last several years. Some Hispanic leaders are responding. That response must be strong and consistent. And it has to reflect that we have come too far to cede ground to those who continually want to put the issues that matter to Latinos on the backburner.

Right-wing pundits paint a picture of America under siege by undocumented immigrants, specifically Latinos. They ignore a long, historical truththat our nation has vastly benefited from immigrants. And they try to hide that millions of American families count undocumented immigrants within them.

This hostility literally put our lives in danger. Hate crimes against Latinosincluding the undocumented and legal residents increased by 40 percent over the last five years.

Our community has fought back against the lies and hate. Under the banner of Today we march, tomorrow we vote, Hispanic organizations worked to naturalize legal residents, register voters, and get Latinos to the polls. The results are evidentLatino voters turned out in record numbers, casting 10 million ballots in the 2008 presidential election. According to all reputable polls, an overwhelming percentage of Hispanic voters support a path to legalization.

Our vote counts. Our issues count. And the leaders who say they represent us must do so effectively and without hesitation.

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