Latino Vote: As elections near, advocates urge Latinos to make their voices heard

With less than a month to go before the presidential elections, advocacy groups are urging Latino voters to make their voices heard at the polls.

On Thursday, Janet Munguia, the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza – the largest Hispanic advocacy and civil rights group in the country – will speak at East Austin College Prep about the lack of political outreach to Latino voters.

Later in the month, the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) will hold a “Get out the Latino Vote” breakfast at Angie’s Restaurant on 1307 E. Seventh Street. That event, on Oct. 21 at 8:30 a.m., will be attended by Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who will inform prospective voters on what documents they will need to present to vote in November.

Several Austin business owners launched a ‘Guac the Vote’ campaign this month to use the ubiquitous taco trucks in the city as voter registration locations.

The General Consulate of Mexico in Austin has also been hosting citizenship drives this year to engage Mexicans in the United States who qualify for citizenship in the American electoral process.

Carlos González Gutiérrez, the consul general of Mexico in Austin, has said in the past: “We will aggressively ask people to exercise their rights and the possibilities they acquire by becoming U.S. citizens.”

On Monday, Travis County announced it had registered more than 90 percent of its eligible voters. County officials said they would make a big push Tuesday – the last day to sign up to register to vote in the presidential election in November – to make sure people get registered before the deadline.

The county’s main tax office at 5501 Airport Boulevard will be open until midnight and voter registrars will be signing people up to vote at all Thundercloud Sub and Alamo Drafthouse locations in the county.

New 5K charity race announced to promote Latino community in Central Texas

Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, Consul General of Mexico in Austin, delivers a $70,000 check to Julian Huerta, Deputy Executive Director of Foundation Communities, the non-profit that will oversee and facilitate the MEXAUSTIN Scholarship program, during a press conference announcing the launch of the program at the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)
Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, Consul General of Mexico in Austin, delivers a $70,000 check to Julian Huerta, Deputy Executive Director of Foundation Communities, the non-profit that will oversee and facilitate the MEXAUSTIN Scholarship program, during a press conference announcing the launch of the program at the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

The Consulate General of Mexico in Austin and “Believe & Train” a running company based in Austin on Saturday announced a new charity race to raise funds for scholarships for Latino students in Central Texas and promote healthy habits within families in the Latino community.

The 5 kilometer race called “Corre Latino” will be held Saturday, Oct. 15 at the H-E-B Center at 2100 Avenue of the Stars in Cedar Park. Registration for the event is now open online at correlatino5k.com. Registration for adults is $30 during August, $35 during September and $40 during October. Children can enroll in the race for $25.

The Mexican consulate will provide financial assistance for low-income families who wish to participate in the race, organizers said during a news conference on Saturday at the Mexican American Cultural Center.

Funds for the event will go toward raising money for the MexAustin scholarship organized by the Mexican consulate and Foundation Communities, which provides financial assistance to Mexican and Latino students in Central Texas who are going to college. The scholarship fund gave out 140 scholarships worth $1,000 to students in its first year.

Organizers are hoping to raise $5,000 for the scholarship fund and to have at least 400 participants in the inaugural race.

“We ask you to spread the word to your friends, to people you know to other families,” Jorge Euran, owner of Believe & Train said in Spanish on Saturday. “The first year is always the hardest … but if we reach our goal the following years will be great.”

 

 

Barragan: After offensive comments, Zimmerman is unapologetic

City Council member Don Zimmerman listens at a city council meeting at City Hall on Thursday August 6, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
City Council member Don Zimmerman listens at a city council meeting at City Hall on Thursday August 6, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This story was updated at 5:13 p.m. to include a statement from Don Zimmerman’s office. 

There are times when we in the news media take what a politician says and run with it.

When I saw the headline to the American-Statesman’s online story: “Zimmerman to largely Hispanic group of kids ‘Do something useful'” I certainly thought that was the case. In this day and age, social media outcry is too often too quick to cry wolf on what a certain politician or public figure (usually one the poster doesn’t agree with) said or meant to say. News outlets, urged by lots of “social media traffic” often pick up on stories that they should actually pass on and do more harm than good to the discourse around heated issues.

Zimmerman, one of the few Republicans on Austin’s City Council, has made a name for himself on the council as a watchdog for taxpayer dollars and espouses socially conservative views that vary widely from the image of Austin as an open and progressive city on social issues. Last year, Zimmerman sparked controversy with Facebook comments asking how those in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage could turn around and justify not allowing pedophiles to marry children.

In short, he’s become a person that many people in Austin do not agree with and do not necessarily like.

So when I first saw the headline, I thought folks might be jumping all over Zimmerman and nitpicking what he said.

I was wrong.

In addressing a group of mostly Hispanic kids who had accompanied their parents to the City Council podium to advocate for more social equity in the city’s budget, Zimmerman said:

“I’d ask for everyone here, including the children, when you grow up, I want to ask you to pledge to finish school, learn a trade, a skilled trade, get a college education, start a business, do something useful and produce something in your society…”

RELATED: Zimmerman owes Austin schoolchildren an apology

Up until here, Zimmerman is arguably on solid ground. If you edit out the part about Latino kids “learning a trade,” which implies that they are not smart enough to pursue a college degree or be admitted into a university, Zimmerman’s speech is typical of a politician. The message is “get an education and do better for yourself than your folks could.” No major problem up until then, although he could have done without the “do something useful” part, which comes off as condescending. In fact, you might say his message was almost encouraging.

But then, we get to the heart of the problem. He followed that message with: “so you don’t have to live off others.”

The crowd reacted instantly, booing as Zimmerman tried to sign off with a “Thank you.”

I have so many questions for Zimmerman. Why did he make that comment? And, especially, why did he address it to the kids in the audience – presumably the most innocent people in the room?

Does he mean that Latinos in the city are “living off others”? Is he just making a general point about those he believes are “living off others”? Was he misunderstood? Does he wish he had made his point differently? Does he think it’s okay to say these things out loud? Does he feel any remorse for saying it?

Who knows? He hadn’t respond to my request for comment by Friday afternoon. But this was his response to KXAN:

“On behalf of those non-subsidized taxpayers being forced out of our city by legions of special interests, I apologize for the greed and selfishness of those willing to expand city government force, through the ‘political process’ to maintain and increase their own subsidies at the unaffordable expense of others.”

That does not sound like a man who was misunderstood or is sorry about what he said. Given a chance, Zimmerman doubled down on his comments.

The problems with Zimmerman’s comments abound: he’s making insulting comments toward kids, he’s generalizing about Latinos, he’s generalizing about people who turn to the government for assistance. As a freedom loving American I’m fine with people having different opinions, I encourage it. I especially love hearing from minorities in government, who often have different perspectives, so I always like to hear Zimmerman’s take on things.

But when you become a public official, the stakes change. People expect a certain decorum and demeanor of you. What you say and how you say it matters.

The other people on that dais Thursday understood that. Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria took issue with one of the points made by the advocates who brought the kids to the podium. They were asking for a freeze on the Austin Police Department’s budget, arguing that more police officers didn’t make the streets safer.

“When you’re talking about cutting the police budget, you know, District 1, District 3 and District 4 have the highest violent crime there is,” Renteria said. “So I hope you’re not saying you’re satisfied with that. … It’s very important that we have to support our police department.”

Some back and forth followed, which ultimately resulted with a group member telling Renteria: “Your people are here saying they don’t like you.” But Renteria responded that he wasn’t going to get in an argument with a member of the public. Decorum.

Sheri Gallo showed that same decorum when instead of wading into whether she agreed or disagreed with a group giving a public comment, she did as she always does when a large group of kids visits council chambers and asked them to raise their right hands and pledge to register to vote as soon as they turned 18.

Kathie Tovo expressed her thanks to the group, as did Greg Casar who told the families in Spanish how he hoped that one day one of their children would be filling his seat in council.

A clearly emotional Delia Garza later weighed in on the situation, fighting back tears:

“Earlier Council Member Zimmerman said something that was really offensive…I want our community to know that we do not condone what he said. And we have your back, not just the ones that are brown or black on this dais. There are other progressive members of this council that support you and understand your issues.”

As applause broke out in the council chambers, Zimmerman looked down at his desk and read his notes. He did not react or say anything in return.

Later that night and into Friday, he was skewered on social media. Gina Hinojosa, the Democratic candidate to replace Rep. Elliott Naishtat, tweeted that his comments were “unbelievable and completely offensive.”

Late Friday afternoon, Zimmerman’s office put out a statement characterizing his words as an “off-the-cuff comment following a long day of city business” that some City Council colleagues assumed had a racist motive. In the statement, Zimmerman said he would give the same advice to his own son and pointed to several other times when he had made similar statements to children at council meetings.

“If my comment was designed to humiliate our young guests yesterday evening, then that begs the question: why would I say that about my own newborn son, or even myself?”

Sometimes, a politician’s words are taken out of context and morphed into something they did not say. That was not the case with Zimmerman. In fact, with the additional context, his comments come off looking even worse because he followed Gallo’s enthusiastic call for civic engagement from the youngsters with an insult that was uncalled for.

Zimmerman meant what he said, he doubled down on it and he is unapologetic about it.

Poll: Latinos oppose Trump, back Clinton, lean Democrat

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Flynn Center of the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A poll released Wednesday indicates that nearly 80 percent of Latinos in battleground states have an unfavorable view of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Latinos in battleground states oppose Donald Trump’s proposals and lean toward ideas espoused by the Democratic party, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll conducted by Latino Decisions on behalf of the Latino Victory Project surveyed 800 registered Latino voters in battleground states during last week’s convention has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted in English and Spanish based on the respondent’s choice and used a mix of online surveys and landline and cell phone interviews. Respondents to the poll came from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin

The Latino Victory Project is a non-partisan group co-founded by Eva Longoria that works to ensure that the voices of Latinos are heard at all levels of government. It has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

Seventy-one percent of Latinos in battleground states said they would likely vote for Clinton if the election was today, compared to 24 percent who said the same about Trump. Sixty-four percent said the Democratic Party was more aligned with their views, compared to 26 percent who said the Republican Party was more reflective of them on issues.

The poll found that 75 percent of Latinos have an overall favorable view of President Barack Obama. Sixty-two percent have an overall favorable view of Hillary Clinton, while only 20 percent have an overall favorable view of Trump. The Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, did only slightly better with 24 percent of respondents saying they had an overall favorable view of him.

And the poll indicated that Trump would have an overall negative effect on other Republicans. Overall, 62 percent of respondents said they are less likely to vote for a Republican who says they disagree with Trump on many things but will still support him in the presidential election. Even if Republican candidates said they would not support Trump, only 33 percent of respondents said that would make them overall more likely to vote for that candidate.

Seventy-five percent of Latinos in battleground states said Trump had encouraged audiences to be angry and hostile toward Latinos, Muslims and immigrants. Similarly, 73 percent said Trump’s campaign events had been violent and dangerous, and 71 percent said Trump had contributed to making the country angrier and more divided on racial issues.

On policy proposals, respondents also rejected Trump and tended toward ideas pushed by the Democratic party.

Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said people should be required to pass a background check to buy a gun and 67 percent supported a ban on assault weapon sales. Eighty percent of Latinos said they supported addressing climate change by making clean energy technology and jobs.

Eighty-two percent said they supported a comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Thirteen percent of respondents said all undocumented immigrants living in the country should be deported.

Sixty-eight percent supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and 86 percent supported giving parents paid leave. Ninety-four percent said that overall they supported strengthening laws to ensure women get paid the same as men for equal work.

In contrast to a perception of Latinos as more conservative leaning on social issues, the poll showed that 68 percent believe that laws should not interfere with women’s reproductive health care, including access to contraception and abortion.

Twenty-six percent of respondents supported Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country, but 57 percent said that a religious test that singles out a single group is against American values.

Thirty-five percent of Latinos said the Affordable Health Care Act should be repealed, as Trump has promised to move to do on his first day in office. But 59 percent said it is working well and should remain in place.

In this year’s election, 36 percent of Latinos in battleground states are more motivated to vote than they were in 2012 and 35 percent of those respondents attribute that to wanting to stop Trump and fight back against racism.

Click here for the full results of the survey

 

Texas Democrats suggest a Castro brother take over as DNC chair

The Texas Democratic Party have suggested that either Julian or Joaquin Castro should take over as chairman of the Democratic National Party after Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the current chairwoman, announced her resignation Sunday.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, will visit Austin on Thursday to speak with the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. Photo from November 20, 2014. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, will visit Austin on Thursday to speak with the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. Photo from November 20, 2014.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“In our humble opinion Texas Democrats believe that both Julian and Joaquin Castro have what it takes to pick up the reins and move the party forward,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “It would be remarkable to have the first Hispanic chair of the Democratic National Committee.”

Julian Castro, the current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was considered by many a possible vice presidential candidate before Hillary Clinton announced Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate Friday. Joaquin Castro is a U.S. representative from San Antonio. Both hail from the Alamo city and are popular figures among Texas Democrats.

Wasserman Schultz, who will step down after the completion of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, has faced recent scrutiny after the publication of leaked emails from Democratic National Committee staffers that appear to favor Clinton over her competitor Bernie Sanders during the presidential primaries. She served as chair of the committee since May 2011.

“Texas Democrats thank Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz for her hard work, leadership and commitment to our great party,” Hinojosa said in his statement. “She has fought heart and soul for this party, and we are well-poised to succeed in November because of her efforts.”

Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist and the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, will act as interim chairwoman through the end of the presidential election, according to committee spokesman, Luis Miranda.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, responded to Wasserman Schultz’s resignation on Twitter.

“The highly neurotic Debbie Wasserman Schultz is angry that, after stealing and cheating her way to a Crooked Hillary victory, she’s out!”

Dear Mayte: An open letter to Texas valedictorian attacked on social media for being undocumented

Dear Mayte,

 

The world can be a cold and brutal place sometimes.

You, at your young 17 years of age, learned that this week after one of your tweets, no doubt intended for your high school friends and those in your close circles, caught the attention of our nation.

“Valedictorian, 4.5GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords/medals, nice legs, oh and I’m undocumented,” you wrote.

Crockett High School valedictorian Mayte Lara revealed her 'undocumented' immigration status on the day of her graduation, and saw a huge backlash on Twitter.
Crockett High School valedictorian Mayte Lara revealed her ‘undocumented’ immigration status on the day of her graduation, and saw a huge backlash on Twitter.

<<< Read More: Who is Mayte Lara? Q&A with the American-Statesman >>>

Good on you. I’m so proud of you, as undoubtedly many people are, especially your parents and loved ones.

But instead of positive reinforcement and praise for all you have accomplished and the obstacles you’ve overcome, you got hate and vitriol.

On Twitter, the mob found your self-congratulatory tweet and took issue.

Go back to your country, they said, and called you a criminal and a thief (do those words sound familiar to anyone?).

They didn’t stop there. They said you were immoral, unethical, untrustworthy and were #RapingTheUSA.

No matter what side of the immigration issue you are on, the truth is that the insults hurled your way are unacceptable, un-American and, sometimes, hateful.

I wish I could tell you it was going to get better, Mayte, but I can’t.

These attacks are only the first in what will surely be a life full of success. With that success will come challenges and these constant attacks on your character from people who don’t know you but will judge you for your immigration status, the color of your skin, your nationality and, indeed, for being a woman.

You see, Mayte, adults aren’t all they are cracked up to be. They tell you as a kid that when you grow up you’re supposed to become thoughtful, considerate and caring toward others. But the reality is that some of us forget that. We get so caught up in our own lives, in our own world views, that we too often forget to see things from a fundamentally human perspective.

Social media, with its reliance on the cold screens of our laptops and smartphones and its humanity-stripping characteristics, makes us forget that there is a person on the other side of our messages and only fuels the inhumane treatment of others.

And so, we end up here. Where a young 17-year-old girl – a kid, for all intents and purposes – who should be commended for the obstacles she’s overcome, is being persecuted for living out the American dream.

“I didn’t want all this to happen,” you told my colleague Melissa B. Taboada this week. “My tweet wasn’t made to mock anyone. I just wanted to show that no matter what barriers you have in front of you, you can still succeed.”

That’s a great message, Mayte, and one worthy of praise. So, how could you have foreseen the firestorm it would set off?

The truth is that you couldn’t have and that you shouldn’t have to.

Your crime in that tweet, Mayte, was success. You were bragging, critics have said, and rubbing it in the faces of hard-working, law-abiding Americans who have suffered as a result of a wave of immigration. You broke the law by entering the country illegally, they’ll add.

Though I do not know you, I’ll guess that you did not have a say when your parents decided to bring you to the U.S. in search of a better future.

At any rate, Mayte, no one should have to suffer the things you suffered over the last few days.

People have threatened to report you to immigration and customs enforcement. One Tweeter said she hired a private investigator to track you down, and now you fear your family will be attacked.

And for what? For being successful? For wanting to inspire others?

The world can be cold and brutal, Mayte, but never give up.

Our country is still mourning the death of a person who was also called cocky and brazen as a young man and was despised and loved for his braggadocio. His chosen name was Muhammad Ali and he changed the world of sports and civil rights forever.

The morning after winning his first heavyweight title, a fight in which he was a 7-to-1 underdog against a menacing champion in Sonny Liston, he told the world: “I don’t have to be who you want me to be; I’m free to be who I want.”

He was 22 – only a few years older than you are now.

I leave you with his words, Mayte, and with the hope that you will continue doing what you’re doing – striving for greatness and letting the world see your light. In a time when our world is particularly brutal and cold, we need it now more than ever.

New campaign aims to turn Trump’s message on its head

From the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump made headlines instantly after negative comments about Mexican immigrants. He said Mexicans crossing the border brought drugs, brought crime, were rapists, and some, he assumed, were good people.

In the 10 months since, Trump has doubled down on negative comments about Latinos and also made negative comments about other groups of people, including Muslims and women. And despite vocal opposition from Democrats, Republicans, pundits and civics rights groups, Trump has continued making negative (and often egregious and erroneous) statements about minority groups, seemingly without hurting his standing as the front-runner for the presidential nomination.

Now, an immigrant rights group from Los Angeles has started a new campaign to turn Trump’s message on its head. Through the Turn Ignorance Around campaign, the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles uses the insinuations Trump made in his campaign announcement speech – that immigrants were criminals – and uses it to make its own point about the contributions the group thinks immigrants, and Latinos in general, make to the United States.

The campaign’s video starts with various Latinos looking into the camera and saying: “I’m a dealer,” “I’m a killer,” “I’m a murderer,” “I’m an attacker,” and then turns the concept around when one man says “I’m a trafficker” then turns around to reveal a shirt that says “A trafficker of stories. I’m a director and I’m Latino.”

The “murderer” says he’s a murderer of boredom: “I’m a comedian.”

One of the “dealers” says she’s a “dealer of care”: a nanny.

The “attacker” says he’s an “attacker of ignorance”: a student.

One by one, each person who introduced themselves as some sort of criminal turns around and reveals the back of their shirt which has their profession (actress, firefighter, attorney, etc.) followed by the words “And I’m Latino.”

“It’s time to turn ignorance around,” they say and the video goes off into a montage of Latino faces. The video ends with the social media campaigns two hashtags #TurnIgnoranceAround and #DumpTrump. The video has been watched more than 885,000 times.

A campaign by the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles launched a new campaign that flip Donald Trump's comments on immigrants and Latinos on its head.
A campaign by the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles launched a new campaign that flip Donald Trump’s comments on immigrants and Latinos on its head.

Casa México will return to SXSW in 2017

The Mariachi del Sur from Bedichek Middle School under the direction of Philip Swasey performs at the Casa Mexico SXSW Interactive showcase at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on March 11, 2016. (John Clark for American-Statesman)
The Mariachi del Sur from Bedichek Middle School, under the direction of Philip Swasey, performs at the Casa Mexico SXSW Interactive showcase at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on March 11, 2016. (John Clark for American-Statesman)

Just a day after the end of Mexico’s first large-scale participation in South by Southwest, the consul general of Mexico in Austin, Carlos González Gutiérrez, said Tuesday that the Casa México showcase would return to the festival in 2017.

The event, organized by various sectors of the Mexican government, private businesses and a prestigious Mexican university, was held at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center from March 11 to 14. Its focus was on promoting Mexico as a hub for culture and innovation and was home to several panels on entrepreneurship and technology and various fast-pitch competitions.

“The event went very well,” González Gutiérrez said. “I think Casa México filled a void and it’s here to stay.”

Lee esta nota en español aquí 

The Mexican diplomat said there were some growing pains during the showcase that led to poor participation in some of the events. It also had difficulty attracting people from other showcases. Other setbacks included musical acts not arriving in time for their scheduled sets. Famed Mexican DJ Toy Selectah, for example, missed his set playing the inaugural ceremony Friday and was rescheduled to play Saturday.

González Gutiérrez said some of the logistic failures were due to a rushed preparation. The organizing committee for the event planned Casa México in three months.

“I think we learned a lot from our mistakes,” he said. “We needed to jump into the water to learn how to swim and I think we demonstrated that Mexico has a very important role here and a very strong presence.”

Still, the event also had significant success. It attracted big names in the technology field such as Mario Valle Reyes, director of business development in emerging markets for Electronic Arts, and high-ranking Mexican diplomats like Carlos Perez-Verdía, the country’s undersecretary to North America. And the showcase was also the site of the announcement of a new $30 million venture fund in Austin that will help develop foreign-born entrepreneurs.

González Gutiérrez said that in 2017 the event’s organizers will look to include discussions with SXSW organizers so that its panels can take place inside the Austin Convention Center or in another venue downtown, where much of the festival’s foot traffic is. Next year’s event, González Gutiérrez said, will likely be shorter than four days and the marketing and promotion will be improved. The space for networking sessions, which was one of the most popular features of the showcase, will likely be enlarged, he added.

Additional reporting by James Barragán