Latino evangelicals rally to register young voters

DREAM Act supporters (Flickr/Korean Resource Center)

Evangelical leaders joined DREAM Act-eligible youth in Florida this week to launch Nuestro Futuro, a campaign to work with church networks and youth leaders to bring Latino evangelical youth to the polls in 2012.

Nuestro Futurowill partner with hundreds of churches in six key states (Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York and New Jersey) to register new voters and to educate the broader community on the top issues facing young Hispanic Evangelicals: poverty, immigration and education.”

“Latino and Latina evangelicals are close to 11 million people in the United States,” Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, said during a phone conference on Wednesday. “In the next several months, we will register Latino and Latina evangelicals [so] young Latinos and Latinas are not condemned to poverty based on their ZIP code.”

The National Latino Evangelical Coalition, a movement that advocates for “the common good and justice in the public sphere,” will focus its initial campaigns on poverty, immigration reform and educational equity.

Rev. Peter Vivaldi, a Florida representative from the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, said in a written statement:

We are honored to be launching Nuestro Futuro in central Florida and partnering with over 300 churches in Central Florida to begin a voter outreach campaign. As Latino Evangelicals, we are not here to elect a candidate we are here to advance a set of issues: poverty reduction, immigration reform and education equity. These issues are a top priority for us and we will not stop our work until they are squarely on the agendas of our political leaders.

“We are staunchly behind comprehensive and humane immigration reform,” Salguero said during the call, “and we will not desist until we get comprehensive immigration reform, so we have partnered with the Campaign for an American DREAM.”

Lucas DaSilva, who came to the U.S. at the age of 12 months and defines himself as a DREAMER, said in the conference call that the Campaign for an American DREAM ”is a walk across the country for the DREAM Act” starting in March.

The DREAM Act would grant people who entered the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 conditional permanent resident status for a period of six years, after which they would be eligible to become legal permanent residents if they obtain at least an associate-level college degree or serve in the military for two years.

DREAM Act supporters have been critical of the Obama administration’s immigration policy, record number of deportations and support for the federal immigration enforcement program Secure Communities.

Fox News reported Wednesday that Mitt Romney, the leading GOP presidential contender, “made waves among some Latino groups and immigration advocates when he said that if elected president, he would veto the Dream Act, a measure that passed in the House last year, but not in the Senate.”

South Florida Hispanic Republicans Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart endorsed Romney in late November.

DaSilva called the DREAM Act an opportunity for “evangelical youth because we are looking to promote unity, diversity and equality and a big part of the DREAM Act is that.”


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