By SUMMER HARLOW | The Kansas City Star
The presidential candidates’ positions on immigration issues are what will win them Hispanic votes in the Midwest, leaders of the League of United Latin American Citizens said Saturday.
The national nonpartisan group, although not supporting a particular candidate, will launch a voter registration drive next month at Blockbuster video stores.
“We’re the swing vote now,” said Juan Garcia, the league’s national vice president for young adults. “We have big numbers, so that’s going to have a big impact. Both political parties are courting our numbers, and more candidates are reaching out to us, which is good because this hasn’t happened before.”
For the first time, league chapters in Missouri and Kansas joined for a combined convention this weekend at the Guadalupe Center. Delegates discussed issues relevant to both states, such as the upcoming election, bilingual education and driver’s licenses and employment for immigrants.
Candidates’ stances on immigration are what will matter this November, said Richard Roybal, executive director of the league’s National Educational Service Centers, citing the difference between the openness of the Canadian border compared with the Mexican border.
“Immigrants are not terrorists,” Roybal said. “They’re coming here to work and to provide money for their families. That’s the message we need to get across.”
Voters also will be interested in candidates’ plans for educational and health opportunities for Hispanics, said Blanca Vargas, the league’s national vice president for the Midwest.
“We need to plant the seed at an early age for children to go on to higher education,” she said.
Now, undocumented immigrants are not being allowed to further their education, which sets up a caste system, said Rod Bonilla, the league’s Kansas director.
“These people are hard workers, but we’re setting them up to have to draw from the public welfare system when they can no longer work,” he said.
This summer the league will celebrate its 75th anniversary at its national convention in San Antonio.