By Cecilia Muñoz
Cecilia Muñoz is senior vice president of research, advocacy and legislation for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). As such, she monitors developments across the country resulting from the enforcement/enactment of federal policies as they relate to the greater Latino community.
In the following piece, Muñoz talks about the racial hatred that has taken root across the country, it’s impact on local Latino communities and NCLR’s attempt to combat it with a new web site titled We Can Stop The Hate.
At the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), we’ve spent a lot of time in the last few weeks highlighting the growing and important role of Latinos in the democratic process. Suddenly, the Latino vote is hot, and the candidates and pundits are paying attention.
But much of the real story has little to do with the presidential election. Take Oregon, for example, where a vibrant community is doing incredible things without national attention.
Latino civic participation is suddenly booming in Oregon, but it’s not spurred by the stateâ€™s upcoming presidential primary, which doesn’t occur until May 20, and it isn’t connected to voting — not yet, at least.
My friends at Oregonâ€™s immigrant rights coalition, CAUSA, have described an incredible scene: five legislative hearings held at the Capitol in Salem over the last three weeks, each attracting no less than 1,000 Latinos.
At one hearing, 5,000 showed up on a weekday. Sounds like shades of what my friends there call the â€œimmigrant spring,â€ the mobilizations of 2006.
The Latino community in Oregon is responding to moves to deny driverâ€™s licenses â€“ now in effect administratively and poised for legislative enactment â€“ to anyone who cannot show legal immigration status.
Until February 4, Oregon was one of eight states where proof of status was not required, but it has become one of many states to cave in on this issue of public safety so that legislators can look tough on immigrants.
The attack on access to driverâ€™s licenses â€“ nationally and in Oregon â€“ has been driven by national talk shows, particularly on the cable networks, featuring hateful and relentless attacks against immigrants.
In Oregon, this occurs regularly on AM talk radio. My organization, NCLR, has launched a campaign and a website to document the extent to which networks put hate groups and extremists on the air and is calling on executives of those networks to remove the hate from their broadcasts.
Our website, We Can Stop The Hate, documents the case and provides a way for people to write to the networks themselves and insist that hate groups be taken off the air.
Hate costs our nation dearly in many ways. There is a cost to Latinos â€“ citizen and noncitizen alike â€“ who are physically attacked by vigilantes and who suffer insults hurled at them by people who presume that theyâ€™re all â€œillegal.â€
In Oregon, the cost of hate has just increased, but Latinos and Latino community allies have not lost hope. On the contrary, they have risen up, led by CAUSA, by PCUN (Oregonâ€™s farmworker union), and backed by radio programmers at Spanish-language stations, including PCUNâ€™s own station, Radio Movimiento, KPCN-LP.
PCUN, CAUSA, and allied organizations are gearing up for an unprecedented voter registration drive in 2008. They are responding to hate with a wave of hope and engaging the community in the political process in record numbers.
Whatâ€™s happening in Oregon is taking place around the country: increased participation.
That is how hope will ultimately triumph over the forces of hate.