By JANINE COOPER
Nov. 29, 2007
Marvin Velasquez, 35, moved to the United States from El Salvador over 20 years ago. He will soon become an American citizen, gaining the right to vote in a U.S. election.
Velasquez is part of the Hispanic community, one of the fastest growing minority groups in the country.
Latinos like Velasquez will play a huge role in determining who will win the 2008 presidential election. According to the U.S. Census, in the 2004 presidential election, the Hispanic vote accounted for about 7.6 million votes and this number is expected to rise in the 2008 presidential election. Because of this, presidential candidates are trying hard to gain the Hispanic vote.
Photo by Janine Cooper.
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks at the congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
“Only through voting will Latinos have a seat at the table to determine who will be the next leader of the United States of America and where that leader will take us, and we want to make sure that we are counted,” said Democratic California Congressman Xavier Becerra.
At a forum held by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, members of Congress asked some of the presidential candidates about issues affecting the Hispanic community, such as immigration, healthcare, employment, education, and the war in Iraq.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said that she will focus on strengthening education in the Hispanic community. She said that she wants to develop ways to keep young Hispanics in school so that they can attend college in the future.
“That agenda, unfortunately, was put into cold storage. We’re taking it out and we’re warming it up and we’re going to go back to business together,” said Clinton.
Clinton criticized the current administration and said she believes that everyone in the United States should have access to affordable health care.
“Billions and billions of dollars for the war in Iraq. Billions and billions of dollars for tax cuts for the wealthy and not any money for healthcare for our children,” said Clinton.
Clinton said that all of these issues should be important to everyone, not only the Hispanic population. She said that through hard work and education, the country can work together towards a common goal.
“We will not let the American dream die in the 21st century,” said Clinton.
A June Gallup Poll showed that voters have been more favorable of Clinton. Another poll conducted by USA TODAY and Gallup showed that most Hispanics consider themselves Democrats. States that include heavy Hispanic populations, such as Florida and California, will be key states in the 2008 presidential election.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-DE, said that there is no difference between Americans and Hispanics. He believes that each group represents the other.
“I quite frankly no longer consider the Hispanic community as a minority community. It’s the mainstream community. It is who we are,” said Biden.
Ohio Representative and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said that America has a responsibility to unite with immigrants because they helped build and sustain the country.
“There’s so much fear in America today and it’s separating us. The fear is driving a wedge between people of different colors, of different creeds,” said Kucinich.
He said that he wants the people of America to remember what kind of nation they are and work together to allow those immigrants who are acting as “model citizens” to be legalized.
“When I say nosotros unidos (We are united), I’m speaking of the imperative of human unity and I try to see that expressed in all the policies of our nation,” said Kucinich.
As for Hispanic voters like Velasquez, he believes that when it comes to immigration, immigrants should be given amnesty.
“They have come to this country for a better future, a better tomorrow. They have come here for freedom, which is something the United States fights for all over the world.”