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Latino communities, people

Latinos: The Issues

08.29.08 | 1 Comment

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Piñatas at a store in Siler City, North Carolina

Piñatas at Mario Calderón’s store in Siler City, North Carolina.

So, what issues do Latinos care about towards this momentous presidential election?

There’s the obvious response: immigration.

But there are also many Hispanics who are concerned about other issues just as much as about an immigration reform. After all, the current economic downturn or the continuing war in Iraq affect all Americans, no matter whether they’re black, brown, white or transparent.

That’s what Francisco Moya, an Ecuadorian-American who is the Democratic Party’s Queens Borough district leader, told me when I asked him about this particular New York community.

“I think, like everything, it’s the economy, it’s housing, gasoline prices. [Ecuadorians in New York] share the same feeling that the nation is feeling right now,” he said. “When milk prices are five dollars a gallon, when gasoline prices are close to five dollars a gallon, people have these real needs that they need people to go out there and help them turn this around.” [You can listen to my interview with Moya here.]

“Common” people, those who I talked to randomly during the roadtrip, seldom failed to mention the economy. Almost with no exception, it was right up there with immigration among the top concerns. The war was also mentioned often.

Diego Ramírez“We don’t want more war and we want the economy to get better,” said Diego Ramírez, 33, from Guatemala City, a tobacco picker who I met on a field by the side of the road in North Carolina.

Mario Calderón“I see [John] McCain kind of like [President George W.] Bush, who’s the one who has brought the economy down and kept the wars going on,” said Mario Calderón, 42, another Guatemalan in that state. “This affects everyone, whether they are Latinos or not.”

There were other issues, as well.

Driver’s licenses - which are closely related to immigration reform since states like North Carolina have stopped issuing them to people who can’t prove they are legal residents.

Education - mentioned to me by an activist in a rural area who was concerned about the future of young Latinos who don’t have access to college.

National security - an issue that a McCain supporter brought up when explaining why she wasn’t voting for Obama.

Although the candidates have spoken often about the war and the economy, immigration has not been so hotly debated in this campaign. Barack Obama, in particular, seems to have pretty much avoided the issue - and I heard complaints about that.

“We’re not sure where they stand really,” Diane Schnell told me in New Orleans. “We know a little bit about McCain but we’re not sure with Obama.”

McCain, as we know, was initially behind the failed immigration bill of two years ago - but lately has switched his stance to securing the border first, talking about immigrants later.

In his acceptance speech last night, Obama referred to the issue only briefly and in terms that I’m not sure will help him win a lot of Latinos over.

“Passions may fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.”

And that was all he said. For those Latinos waiting to hear his take on immigration, it wasn’t much.

Permanent link: http://diegograglia.net/newyorktomexico/?p=54

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