Latino Victory Project

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Leaders with civil rights and labor organizations were in the Valley to talk about the impact of anti-immigrant efforts on mid-term elections. Henry R. Muñoz III, co-founder of Latino Victory Project and Cristóbal J. Alex, president of Latino Victory Project share their views on the issue.

José Cárdenas: Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. We'll talk about the effect of anti-immigrant laws on the 2014 elections.

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All this coming up straight ahead on "Horizonte."

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Thank you for joining us. This week leaders with civil rights and labor organization were in the valley to talk about the impact of anti-immigration efforts on midterm elections. Joining me is Jenry R. Muñoz, cofounder of Latino victory project and Cristóbal J. Alex, president of Latino victory project. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Tell us about this week's conference, and what it's all about and I want to get into some more specifics, but just an overview.

Cristóbal J. Alex: First thank you so much for having us here today. Great to be back in Phoenix. The conference marks the 20th anniversary of California's proposition 187. This was the first anti-immigrant ballot initiative statewide in the country. It's the 20th anniversary, California, they passed the ballot initiative easily, but it forever changed politics in Casbahs it spurred Latino political participation and drove Latinos to register, naturalize, vote, and it changed politics forever. And we're marking that anniversary in Phoenix because Arizona for the last few years has been ground zero for anti-immigrant efforts and the organizations on the ground have done an incredible job here building the Latino vote.

José Cárdenas: Your organization is one of the major participants in this event. Why, and before you answer that question, give us background on your organization.

Jenry R. Muñoz: Well, our organization was founded out of the incredible progress of Latinos made in making a difference in the presidential election of 2014. So it seemed logical that given the fact that our demographics are growing in this country, that we should seize our own power, take control of our own destiny, and do it in a very organized fashion. So over the course of this last presidential election in 2012 and now into 2014, there have been conversations both around the country with individual leaders and with other advocacy organizations about what that looks like. The result of that is an organization that was founded by Eva Longoria and myself called Latino victory. The purpose of Latino victory is to create the next generation of leadership within the Latino community, and to create the next generation of donors who will fund electoral activities and will also be involved in the kind of meetings and activities like we're here this week in Arizona to be a part of.

José Cárdenas: How do you go about achieving these two goals?

Jenry R. Muñoz: You know, that's very interesting. I think this week is an important opportunity to look backward at the history and heritage of the movement within the country of Latino political power. And to convene a meeting to talk about how you move forward in the future. Clearly our community has been very successful at organizing itself in a grass-roots fashion. I think now it's the combination of grass-roots activation and donor participation. I see this very much in the same way as the LGBT community began organizing itself 20 years ago. So we're at an interesting point in the history of the political movement of Latino power and politics in the United States.

José Cárdenas: History as you indicated is really a key part of the discussions here in Phoenix this week. What are the lessons to be learned from prop 187, and how transferable are they to other states 20 years later?

Cristóbal J. Alex: Well, I think one of the main lessons coming out of prop 187 was working together, labor, civil rights groups, immigrant rights groups, Latino organizations at the grass-roots level, working together after which was a very anti-immigrant, anti-Latino law was passed, working to engage those communities in the Democratic process. And over time, they succeeded in California. You won't see that type of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino law pass in that state again. We do think there are important lessons learned that are transferable to other states. I was surprised to learn in Oregon, they have the only anti-immigrant statewide ballot initiative right now on the books, excuse me, coming up for a vote in November and it spurred Democratic participation from Latino communities up until now not really engaged in the process.

José Cárdenas: If indeed prop 187 had that effect in California, wouldn't you expect, and isn't the fact you have this ballot measure in Oregon that you had SB 1070 here in Arizona, a reflection people didn't learn from that?

Cristóbal J. Alex: Well, I think the important lesson is we can take an attack on our community, such as SB 1070 here in Arizona, and use that to transfer anger from the community into action. Positive action around voting, around registration, around civic participation, and I think one of the reasons we're here in Arizona is because we have the perfect example of exactly that happening. For example, after SB 1070 passed in 2010, there was a threefold increase in the number of Latinos who were on the early registration and early vote list. What we're seeing is a tremendous increase in Democratic participation following 1070, and I think in a few weeks when we have elections here in Arizona and around the country you'll see Latinos turn out in record numbers in this midterm election.

José Cárdenas: There have been increases, and yet overall, Latinos continue to punch below their weight in electoral matters. How do we deal with that?

Jenry R. Muñoz: I think we deal with it the way we're beginning to deal witness through Latino victory, by calling people together, by messaging them, by explaining to them exactly what is at stake for themselves and their family. And inspiring them to be active, maybe even to be angry about the way they're being treated in this country. I really believe that the message of Latino victory and the advocacy groups that will join together this week in Arizona is a message of self-determination. The now is the moment in the country's history when demographics isn't destiny, that it's up to us to take our future into our own hand, to organize and vote. There are some people who would have you -- That the way to make your voice heard is by not to make it heard at all, when in reality, if we voted, we would make a tremendous difference in the state of Arizona, we wouldn't make -- We would make a tremendous difference in my home state of Texas, and we would continue that tradition that was a response to prop 187 that when you are treated in a way in which you are not treated fairly or with justice, you cannot let that happen to you or to your children.

José Cárdenas: You mentioned anger. We spoke a little bit off camera and you indicated that maybe the problem is that people aren't angry enough. Why do you think that is?

Jenry R. Muñoz: I do not know. I don't know the answer to that. I don't understand why we would allow ourselves to be treated that way in this great country of ours. I think that we are living in a United States in which things are not fair and they're not equal. And we need to simply recognize that they aren't. We clearly, in the future, will have the numbers. Now is the opportunity to seize, if you will, the promise of the American dream. By angry, I mean be angry enough to exercise your right to vote. It belongs to you. Take advantage of it.

José Cárdenas: Let's talk a little bit more about the conference the people who participated, groups who are here, and what the nature of the discussion is.

Cristóbal J. Alex: Really they're twofold. First and foremost, marking the anniversary and as Henry said, getting out the message that your voice matters. In California the reason why you had this incredible increase in Democratic participation wasn't because people stayed home and did not vote, that only guarantees one thing. That you don't have a voice. But the message here, and what we're seeing in Arizona and beyond is that your vote is your voice, and reminding folks that they can make a change. And so we're seeing that here in Arizona, ballots are being mailed today, early vote is beginning, and we want to remind folks how important it is to get out and vote. The second major part of the discussion was really a closed-door discussion among leaders from around the country. We had the president of the NEA, the first latinoa to hold that position of the country's largest union, the president of MALDEF, the president of natural Hispanic leadership agenda, and leaders from Oregon and from Kansas, and Georgia, and around the country who are facing similar an take-away immigrant efforts and they're learning from the work here in Arizona by folks like the one Arizona table, for example, that have worked so hard to build an important latino civic engagement infrastructure.

José Cárdenas: Henry, we're almost out of time. We've been talking about the backlash of prop 81 -- 187 in California, what it may mean for Arizona. More recently, there's been two kinds of backlash. One is the influx of child immigrants from central America seems to have stopped immigration reform. At least for now. And the other is the backlash of people disappointed in the president's commitment to immigration, or the feeling he's backed off some commitments he's made. How much do you think that's going to have Latino sitting on the sidelines in these midterms?

Jenry R. Muñoz: Well, I travel all over the country, and I definitely understand that there is a great deal of frustration in the Latino community of the United States. Not just on the issue of immigration reform, but with the seeming stagnancy of our community with regard to progress, education, access to opportunity. I think that we need to know who our friends are and who our allies are and who our enemies are. And they don't reside in the White House. I think we need to be very organized and very strategic about saying to the Congress that it is time for us to have comprehensive immigration reform that makes sense, and the only way to achieve that is to come out and vote in this midterm election, and to make sure that whatever transpires after this election, whether it be an executive order or a piece of legislation, that it is sustainable and long-term, because that is what is in the best interests of this country.

José Cárdenas: Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this very important topic.

Jenry R. Muñoz; Cristóbal J. Alex: Thank you.

Henry R. Muñoz III:Co-Founder, Latino Victory Project; Cristóbal J. Alex:President, Latino Victory Project;

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