Election Boycott

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Some Hispanic groups are calling for a November election boycott. Carlos Garcia, executive director of Puente Arizona and Roberto Reveles, founding president of Somos America share their views on this issue.

Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. Early voting has already started in Arizona, but we may see some people avoiding the ballot box on purpose. Some in the Hispanic community are calling for a boycott in the November election. Here to talk about this is Carlos Garcia, executive director for Puente Arizona and Roberto Reveles, founding president of Somos America. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Carlos, as I understand it, Puente is not itself calling for a boycott, who is calling for a boycott and why?

Carlos Garcia: A lot of individuals in our community who are deciding not to vote. Disappointment with the democrats has gotten to a point where people just don't know where to go. I think seeing this president, having deported over 2 million people, continue to deport 1,100 a day and delaying his most recent action that could have stopped the suffering has pushed people to not wanting to act. Specifically, four, five senators who asked President Obama not to delay the deportations. Senators of states in Utah, Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, and a couple others who were in tight races, and a position of democratic party asked for them not to stop deportations because it might hurt their elections. This boycott is to send a message that our community matters. 1,100 people deported a day is no joke and people might stay home just because of that.

Jose Cardenas: The President has tried to justify his position by saying that it will cause more harm than good. That he will act after the election, why is that not a reasonable response?

Carlos Garcia: We heard those promises in 2008. 2 million people lost later, it is hard for us to wait another day. First two years of the presidency, he had the house, Senate and could have passed immigration reform. Could have stopped deportation a long time ago and he hasn't. The most recent delay from June until now, over 100,000 people have been deported. Our community, in places like Arizona continue to suffer, and now lost hope, not only in Obama, but in democrats in general.

Jose Cardenas: Roberto, you responded strongly to the suggestion of a possible boycott of Hispanic groups. The basis does seem to be legitimate, grievances with President Obama and democratic party, so why not?

Roberto Reveles: I too have grievances with the administration. I have spent a lifetime working in support of my Latino community and I have spent the last 10 years in particular here in Phoenix developing support for the immigrant community. I certainly am distressed, but the point is that to call for a boycott is to turn the Congress over, lock, stock, and barrel, to republicans who have promised to do what on immigration reform? They promised to dismantle DOCA, promised not to have comprehensive immigration reform. To me it's insane to say -- we are angered at the president, therefore we are not going to vote, and, therefore, we will leave our fate in the hands of a totally controlled party that has publicly said that they do not support even the bipartisan Senate passed immigration reform measure.

Jose Cardenas: Now, someone pointed out, for example, this week in the "New York Times," analysis of the impact of the Hispanic vote in this election and the analysis was that it is not going to make a difference. I think that actually cuts both ways. If that is not the case, why not a symbolic gesture at least. If it is not going to change who controls the house, republicans still are, not likely to change who wins the Senate, that may or may not go republican but not because of Hispanic votes.

Roberto Reveles: I don't see voting as symbolism. I see it as an actual act of citizenship being played out responsibly. I don't care what the polls say. I'm going to be out there encouraging our community to speak out in support of an administration that has rolled back the recession, that has created jobs, that has -- that is for public education, that is for expanded health care, that is for bringing peace to parts of the world that desperately need it, and for comprehensive immigration reform. I see voting as essential to that. To say otherwise, symbolically I'm giving up the vote, who is to say they can trust you in further elections? You are in fact, becoming irrelevant.

Jose Cardenas: Carlos, isn't there some concern that all of the efforts have been put into getting out the Hispanic vote in the last few years, encouraging people to express their views by voting, will be harmed by actions such as this?

Carlos Garcia: I think because we value our vote, we're tired of having it taken for granted. I think one thing we realized working on deportation and immigration, more Democrats more Latinos doesn't equate stopping the deportations. I always use L.A. county and the city of L.A. as an example. A place that is ran by democrats, ran by Latinos, but it is the only county in the entire country that deports more people that Maricopa county. Myself, having six people in my family being deported, six months ago my uncle being deported. This is dear to my heart. It's no longer a political ploy or game. That is which the Democrats have been holding on to, as long as the republicans are worse than them, they have been satisfied with now deporting over 2 million people. That is simply unacceptable for our community and that is something that I cannot stand here and look in my community's face and say vote for a party that has done this damage to our community.

Roberto Reveles: On the other hand, Jose, to indeed withhold your vote from the only party that has provided DOCA. President Obama is the one, through his executive authority, put DOCA in place. To say that we're holding our vote because we're angered that he hasn't expanded it to the families of DOCA eligible individuals, is, again, doesn't make sense. What you will be doing is saying, well, we reject democrats who have historically been the party that has helped broaden immigration policies in this country. Instead we are going to turn it over to the republicans who make no bones about it. They say they want to shut the border down. And, so, I, too, have had very close contact with people in need. I have housed -- I have sheltered unaccompanied minor refugees in corporation with immigrant refugee rights project. I know how desperate the situation is for people who are seeking to better their lives and to legalize their stay. But, again, to say I'm putting my fortunes in the hands of people who have already said publicly we're not going to help you.

Jose Cardenas: Isn't there a point where the frustrations get to the level where you say you're not my friend. I'm not going to support you.

Roberto Reveles: I have been working here since the big March of 2006 where we all, including Puente, committed to civic engagement. And civic engagement is not based on, well, let's set a frustration level here. Cesar Chavez himself said in so many words, don't expect any of these battles to be short-lived. You've got to be prepared for the long run. And what he did, for example, when he reached frustration and some of the supporters have reached the frustration level, he said the real test is to put yourselves at risk. Don't put anybody else at risk. I think we are putting a lot of people at risk by putting their fate in the hands of a republican-controlled Congress.

Jose Cardenas: Carlos, one last question, and then we will have to wrap up the interview. Isn't one of the reasons that both parties take the Hispanic vote for granted is that Hispanics don't vote. And so isn't it -- wouldn't it be more constructive to turn out the vote in tremendous numbers and let people vote who they want to vote for, republican, democrat, whatever, the numbers themselves, wouldn't that be more significant?

Carlos Garcia: I think defining civil engagement by just voting is a mistake. I think the way we have been able to beat back policies and start the change in Arizona, not only relying on the vote, taking to the streets, combined strategy of all of these tactics. I think the DACA example is a very good example. It wasn't until students started taking over Obama for America campaign offices, and threatening the vote there that that change actually happened. Before that President Obama was both deporting dreamers and is still deporting -- it is a party that is taking us for granted. It committed the perfect crime by continuing to deport our people, yet only be slightly better than the republicans and created havoc both here in Arizona and across the country.

Jose Cardenas: I'm sorry, we're out of time. A tough issue. A lot of passion on this issue. Thank you for joining us to talk about it.

Roberto Reveles: Thank you.

Carlos Garcia:Executive Director, Puente Arizona; Roberto Reveles:Founding President, Somos America;

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