CHARLOTTE, N.C. A television personality and a well-known civil-rights activist urged Latino Democrats Saturday to register voters between now and November.
The Cuban-born Raul de Molina, an Emmy award-winning co-host of Univision’s entertainment show “El Gordo y la Flaca,” and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of what is now the United Farm Workers, spoke to a group of about 130 supporters of President Barack Obama at the art gallery of Colombian-born artist Edwin Gil.
“He’s our champion,” Huerta, 82, said of Obama. The president, she said, is helping young Latinos in particular, through his health care overhaul that allows young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26, and through his support of work permits for those who are undocumented.
“Mitt Romney has (former California Gov.) Pete Wilson, who took away affirmative action” and bilingual education in California, Huerta said. “For us, there is no doubt who is on our side.”
Huerta said Obama needs not just the Latino vote, but also support from women, African Americans and other groups.
De Molina, 53, who lives in Florida, said he is supporting Obama both because of the president’s health care overhaul and because he’s paving the way for the DREAM Act, a bill that would put many young illegal immigrants on paths to citizenship. In June, Obama announced that undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and met other criteria would be safe from deportation and able to obtain work permits. The policy, however, does not offer permanent legal status or citizenship.
“He’s been the only president who has done anything in that direction,” de Molina said of helping young undocumented people.
Of the state’s 9.6 million residents, 8.6 percent – or more than 825,000 – are of Hispanic or Latino descent, according to the U.S. Census.
“We need to increase the number of voters given the potential that is there,” said Olma Echeverri, 60, a delegate and chair of the Hispanic American Democrats of North Carolina. “We want to make sure as Latinos that we count and only way to do that is to register to vote.”
Charlotte-born Colorado delegate Sonya Jaquez Lewis, 54, said she was impressed to hear Huerta speak.
“To be able to see her in person and see her inspire the next generation is an opportunity of a lifetime. … To listen to the wisdom of our elders is how we become a great nation,” Jaquez Lewis said.
The Latino vote, Jaquez Lewis said, is going to decide the 2012 election.
“We are the largest-growing segment of our United States,” Jaquez Lewis said. “We are the fastest-growing segment of small business in the United States and we are the largest segment of the United States that doesn’t have healthcare right now. For all of those reasons, I think we’re going to be the next emerging power base.”
Robert Reid, a spokesman for Mitt Romney’s campaign in North Carolina, said that under Obama, Hispanics “are hurting with so many unemployed and those who are working and having to do more with less. … Gov. Romney will work tirelessly to create more good-paying jobs to reform the education system and to lower taxes.”
Reid also said that in their remarks at the Republican National Convention, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Republican governors’ Susana Martinez and Luis Fortuño all laid out eloquently why Romney is going to fight hard for Hispanics.