Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Latino dismay over immigration breeds upstart Tequila Party

Latino dismay over immigration breeds upstart Tequila Party

While President Obama gives speech about immigration reform in El Paso, Tex., many Latin Americans across the country are displeased with the direction he's taking.
Charles Dharapak/AP
While President Obama gives speech about immigration reform in El Paso, Tex., many Latin Americans across the country are displeased with the direction he's taking.

The Tequila Party - yes, that's its name - is holding its kickoff event Saturday in Tucson.

Loosely inspired by the rapidly deflating Tea Party, the Tequila Party was created to mobilize a record number of Latinos to go out and vote in the 2012 election.

The independent, grass-roots group is the brainchild of Fernando Romero, a Democrat who is president of Hispanics in Politics, a nonpartisan Nevada group.

The Tequila Party gets its impetus from the deep-seated Latino disillusionment with President Obama's performance on issues important to them.

There is no more defining issue for Latinos than immigration. Although Hispanics share the concerns of the rest of the population, a public figure's attitude towards immigration acts for Latinos as sort of an honesty-demagogy scale.

"U.S. policies should be pro-immigration, not against it," Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said recently. "We have to challenge Republicans but also Democrats."

Although Republicans fare even worse, President Obama is gliding precariously just above the bottom of the scale.

The reason is not only Obama's failure to fulfill his promise of securing immigration reform, but his enthusiastic endorsement of indiscriminate deportations that have resulted in expelling close to 1 million people in the three years he has been in office.

The federal government's lack of action has resulted in a number of states enacting laws that are hostile and outright racist. Think Arizona's infamous SB1070.

But there is more.

A Justice Department investigation sponsored by Rep. José Serrano (D-Bronx), reaffirms that Hispanics - regardless of immigration status - are increasingly in danger of being victims of hate crimes.

"The Justice Department study which I asked be carried out has a very disturbing message: Latinos are increasingly under violent attack in our nation," said Serrano. "Anecdotally, while we have known that this was going on, this study quantifies and proves that we have a big problem on our hands."

A big problem indeed. To read the entire report go to .

The White House inaction and the hateful statements by the likes of Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), Steve King (R-Iowa) and Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) among others, have contributed to a climate of hate that has proven to be an ideal breeding ground for racism and violence.

This is the reality for Latinos and no amount of nice words, lofty promises and friendly back-patting can cut it any longer.

The emergence of the Tequila Party could be a reality check for Obama and the Democrats.

Intended to boost the political influence of America's fastest-growing minority group, its message is simple: Respect us, don't take us for granted or you will pay a price at the ballot box.

Angelo Falcón, president and co-founder of the National Institute for Latino Policy in New York says it makes sense as a movement by Latinos to influence the Democratic Party but is unsure "if it would have enough traction as a third party or a movement within the Republican Party."

Falcón adds, "I hate the name - sounds like a bunch of drunks getting together to do politics!"

In any case the reality is that the number of Latinos eligible to vote went from 13 million in 2000 to 21 million in 2010, and 12 million of them are expected to vote in 2012. No politician can afford to ignore them.

If Obama and the Democrats keep trying to play Latinos for fools, they could get smashed on all that tequila out there.

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