LATINO EVANGELICALS WANT TO HEAR MORE ON THE ISSUES
One of TIME magazine’s covers this year asserted that the Latino vote will decide November’s presidential election. As the date approaches, there is one group that’s been dubbed the quintessential swing vote: Latino evangelicals.
The Latino evangelical community has grown to become one of the biggest demographics in the United States. According to a 2008 Pew report on the U.S. religious landscape, of the 82.3 million people who identify themselves as evangelicals, 7.5 million are Latino evangelicals.
Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coaltion (NaLEC), tells Hispanic Link, “I really don’t think anyone can say which way they’re going to turn right now. We’re going to be listening very closely to President Obama and Governor Romney.”
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) president Samuel Rodríguez says their vote “will coalesce around a number of issues. At the end of the day, it’s going to be which party addresses fundamental issues. Both parties have an opportunity right now in engaging this electorate.”
Of course, one of the key issues is immigration.
Two major immigration-related events occurred this month. First, on June 12 a group of immigration leaders came to Washington to announce six principles they believe should guide comprehensive and humane immigration reform.
Three days later, Obama announced his deferred action measure allowing undocumented immigrants age 30 and under who arrived here before the age of 16 allowing them to stay in the country for two years without fear of deportation. Those eligible may apply for work permits and have the option of renewing their status.
Identifying immigration as a “justice” issue, Rodríguez said Obama’s campaign “will take advantage of this position, of course, and use it as a tool to engage Latino evangelical voters.”
When asked about Obama’s announcement in a Face the Nation interview, Romney dodged the question five times, saying only that he wants to implement a long-term solution. At a National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) conference, he mentioned a long-term solution again, but provided no specifics.
Other key issues are education and jobs. In a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Latino unemployment rate for May was 11.0 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate for May was 8.2. Rodríguez expressed his concerns over the gap and the fact that 50 percent of young Latinos never graduate from high school.
Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Richard Land says the candidates just need to be “doing the right thing. The right thing is to be pro-life, the right thing is to be pro traditional marriage and the right thing is to be for comprehensive immigration reform. The life issue and the marriage issue are very important to evangelicals.”
Latino evangelicals voted conservatively in past elections. In 2000 and 2004 they voted for Republican candidates. In 2008, however, 57 percent voted for Obama.
“I think that any candidate, Republican or Democrat, that does not take the broad platform of Hispanic evangelicals seriously does so at his or her peril,” said Salguero. “To ignore us would be, I think, a political misstep.”
(Dennis Valera is a reporter with Hispanic Link News Service in Washington,D.C. Reach him by email firstname.lastname@example.org) ©2012