After a historic night in which eight Democratic Presidential candidates appeared before NALEO's audience at Telemundo studios in Miami, LPO conversed with three key players in the Latino political landscape in the US, to better understand the meaning of Friday's event.
California State Secretary Alex Padilla, who has been President of NALEO in the past, highlighted the fact that the association was able to summon eight Democratic candidates so they could talk before the Latino officers who are part of the organization.
About the absence of Joe Biden and other candidates, Padilla understands how demanding a a rece can be in these times.
"It is hard to say. I'm an active member of NALEO, and former President of the association, but I know what being a candidate is. The demands it carries", he said. The official added that the conference "is one of the best opportunities to talk to the Latino community in the country. Those who were not present lost a chance, but they still have from today to Election Day to show their commitment, their positions, and their support for Latinos and our issues".
Regarding whether candidates lacked a better understanding of the Latino point of view, Padilla said that "all of the candidates bring their life experiences to the campaign. Some are more familiar with the Latino experience than others". He mentioned as an example Senator Kamala Harris, "who is not a stranger to California's Latino community and now she is trying to advance in the rest of the country. You have other candidates from less diverse areas meeting with Latino leaders and familiarizing with their issues. They don't have that experience", he said.
A common theme during the conference was that, opposed to what many American politicians believe, the Latino community is not monothematic.
"It is important to point out that, yes, Latinos are interested in immigration, but it is not the only issue. It is crucial today, but Latinos also want to know what the candidates' stand on quality education and finance is. Job opportunities, healthcare quality. Security, among many other things".
Regarding the Latino voter and how to address them, Padilla said that this is a "more diverse community than what is usually thought of". He pointed out that "there are people like my father, who is not on Facebook and doesn't use email. He gets his news traditionally. He watches the news on TV and reads books. And then, there are Latinos like my nephew, who probably do not have cable and watches news online. That's how diverse the Latino community is all over the country".
He said that it varied vastly depending on the country of origin, what generation they are, how long the family has been in the US, and how the voter consumes information. "It is a challenge for candidates to use all those medium, so they can reach the comunity".
On AMLO's Marshal Plan for the development of Central America, Padilla mentioned that "a collaboration between American countries makes sense, but it has to be genuine, fair and responsible for everyone. Raising life quality, starting with security, and opportunities for all".
Matt Barreto, a specialist in Latino Politics, UCLA professor, and founder of the influential consulting firm Latino Decisions thinks that the candidates "did a great job, although the 20 candidates should have been present, I know they are invited to many events. It was good for all of those who came since it shows that they are interested in winning the Latino vote".
"They gave very good answers. Many talked about their experiences in the Latino vote in the past, so this wasn't their first time. It was good hearing them. I think there has been an advancement in the Democratic Party, compared to the answers you heard in 2004 and 2008, much more convincing, very different. And they are all on the same page in terms of immigration and Latino concerns", the specialist said.
Barreto highlighted Senator Warren's performance: "I think she was very good, she had a good reception". The same with former Secretary Julian Castro: "He is getting stronger. I have heard him talk many times before and this is one of his best. I also think there was a good audience for Bernie Sanders. He had a good reception. He was very criticized in 2016 because he didn't have a good strategy for people of color, he seems to be changing that. He did good".
Regarding public policy, Barreto pointed out that "the Latino point of view is missing in all of the themes". It is not just about talking healthcare, but that when they bring it up, they just do not say "Medicare for all. They have to explain exactly how an immigrant can have access to it and how they can navigate the system. When they talk about universal free tuition, they need to explain how can a first-generation family be benefitted, what the importance of a college education is, and how said system can be used and navigated".
He said that it is common that in the public arena "the Latino point of view is not present". He added: "The issues are there, but they need to approach them from the Latino experience. The only one who really has this quality is Julian Castro. It is very important that he is in the race so that he can teach the other candidates. When he talks about any subject, he does so from the Latino perspective, and we are hoping the rest of the candidates learn to do that. They don't always understand what growing up in a Latino community means, in a working-class first-generation immigrant family".
As to why Castro has not taken off in the preferences, Barreto said that "the media is fascinated with the new candidates who seem more attractive and flashy". And that is not the former Secretary's style.
"He is not flashy and he doesn't yell. I think he is leading a slow, but stable campaign. I think he is growing in social media, getting more contributors. He is advancing slowly, and he's getting more interviews nationally". He pointed out that "it is very important to have his voice, no matter who you support. If you are a Democrat and a Latino, it is important to hear his voice. It is frustrating that the media is not focusing more on him, but I hope this changes after the debates, and that he has the chance to have a national stage".
Finally, LPO consulted with Arturo Vargas, director of NALEO. "It was a great chance for the candidates to appear in a national Latino platform. Many of them presented to the community for the first time", he said.
He said that for many in the community, this was the first time they were hearing the candidates "and today they are leaving with the knowledge of who these people are and that they showed respect by being at the NALEO conference".
Vargas said that it was important for them to come and talk to the Latinos, "and, yes, immigration is an important matter, but we are also interested in the census, the economy, healthcare, and jobs. We care about Puerto Rico. And they must focus on those matters".
He said that the question of citizenship in the 2020 census would not have been considered if it weren't for NALEO. "That is exactly why we brought it up as a part of the forum for every candidate. Because it is very important for NALEO and the entire community. They have to know this because many of them are policymakers. We have three senators, a Congressman. They can do something about it, and I hope they have gotten the message".
The CEO said that the intention was "to make sure that there is a Latino point of view. Today we were able to present to whoever wants to be President of the United States. To the people of the US, our message here is you have public officials at the service of the nation. These are elected as councilors, legislators. We know how to collaborate and work on both sides of the aisle. We are here".
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