SUPREME COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS CHALLENGING THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

The Supreme Court in Washington

PHOTO: The Supreme Court. REUTERS

Today the Supreme Court hears arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).  In 1965, following a civil rights movement demonstration in Selma, Alabama, which ended in bloodshed, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act and catapulted the civil rights movement by making discriminatory practices that disenfranchised voters illegal.

 

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The 15th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited states from denying a male citizen the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” However, continuing discriminatory practices like poll taxes and mandatory literacy tests prevented African Americans from voting and in 1965 Congress passed the VRA. Section 5 of the VRA prohibits discrimination based on race, critical in specific states with historical and documented discriminatory restrictions on voting.

 

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These particular jurisdictions are prevented from making changes in their election requirements without first getting pre-approval from the federal government. Section 2 of the VRA bars the use of voting practices or procedures that discriminate against minority voters.

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During the 2012 Presidential election there were many attempts to disenfranchise voters with attempts to pass voter ID laws that prevented minorities and elderly people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote. Long voting lines and last minute changes to polling sites are every bit as oppressive as the poll taxes that dominated past elections before the passing of the VRA of 1965.
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“Texas, for example, proposed a stringent voter ID law that had the purpose to prevent minority voter participation which the Supreme Court found violated Section 5 of the VRA,” said LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes. “It’s outrageous to minority voters to suggest that the VRA is outdated in light of recent attempts by states to disenfranchise voters. The progress we’ve made has been solely because of the protections offered by the VRA, and any distinctions made are attempts to manipulate the law for political advantage.” The League of United Latin American Citizens is rallying on February 27th on the steps of the Supreme Court in order to reinforce to the Court that the Voting Rights Act protects real voters from discrimination.

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WHY IS TEXAS SILENT ABOUT IMMIGRATION REFORM?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

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Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Republicans have been relatively silent on the renewed push to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. Despite the state’s nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants and 1,200-mile long border with Mexico, Perry and the Texas legislature have kept mum on the issue. They’re not resurrecting dozens of contentious immigration bills that roiled the statehouse in 2011. They’re not making the rounds on TV and radio to talk about President Barack Obama’s plan for legalizing immigrants. They’re not even saying the word “immigration.”

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When Perry delivered his State of the State recently — his first since his failed presidential run — glaringly absent in the 37-minute speech was any mention of the issue at all. The silence speaks to the sudden political shift in immigration since last fall’s presidential election, in which Hispanics voted Democratic by a nearly 3-to-1 margin and created a powerful incentive for Republicans to change their approach to this growing ethnic group.
r-MARCO-RUBIO-IMMIGRATION-large570In Congress, Republicans have softened their opposition to accommodating immigrants, and a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators unveiled a bill framework that includes a pathway to citizenship for those already in the U.S. so long as border security is beefed up.
But in Texas, the party has been left speechless in the Capitol. Only two years ago in his State of the State address, Perry called for punishing “sanctuary cities” that bar police officers from asking detainees about their immigration status. There’s no talk of such measures now.
“You want an answer? That tried and that failed,” said Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri. “Responsible leadership is now focusing on things that have a chance to get passed.”
Immigration isn’t an easy subject to ignore in Texas, though. About 16 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the United States live in the state, according to a Department of Homeland Security report in 2012, and immigration leaves an outsize footprint on the state’s infrastructure.

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So red-hot was immigration for Texas Republicans in the last legislative session that state Rep. Debbie Riddle camped outside the clerk’s office to make sure her bills targeting undocumented immigrants were filed first. About 50 bills related to immigration were filed in all. This time, Riddle, who once famously warned of immigrant mothers in the U.S. giving birth to “terror babies” who would grow up to attack the country as unsuspecting citizens, has not submitted any immigration proposals.
“Establishment Republicans are trying to brand a different message,” said Maria Martinez, executive director of the Immigration and Reform Coalition of Texas that backed “sanctuary city” proposals in 2011.

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IS JOAQUIN CASTRO THE NEW LATINO POWER?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

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It struck two months before, more than 1,000 miles from his home district of San Antonio, Texas. But Hurricane Sandy, which caused death and destruction in so much of the Northeast, was weighing heavily on Joaquin Castro on a blustery day in mid-January. That is when he cast his vote in favor of a $50.7 billion emergency bill to provide help to Sandy victims – his very first vote as a U.S. congressman.
“It was an awful tragedy,” Castro, 38, said in an interview with Fox News Latino. “It was my first real vote in Congress. It reminds you of how connected we all are despite the fact that we all represent a different geographic area.”
The former Texas state legislator may be in a bigger pond, but he’s no small fish. Joaquin Castro is already one of the most watched new members of Congress. Shortly after being sworn in, Castro was elected by his Democratic peers in the House to head their freshman class.

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“It’s quite an accomplishment that your colleagues have that kind of faith in you that they elect you to be president of their class,” said former Texas Congressman Charles Gonzalez, whose decision not to seek an eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives opened the door for Castro to make his move. “It’s pretty hard to get elected. There are no slackers in there. Everyone who got elected rose above other people in what generally were very contested races.”

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“Many have admirable records either in the public or private sector,” Gonzalez, a Democrat, said. “He’ll be trying to keep that class of Democrats united not just for this Congress but for the next.”

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Those who have watched Joaquin Castro and his twin brother, Julian, for some time say they are not surprised that they are – at a relatively young age – causing a sensation at the national political stage. Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, was the bigger star of the two last summer when he was picked to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. He made history, becoming the first Latino chosen for that role.

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But in November, Joaquin – who until then was described more often than not as “Julian’s brother” – commanded the brighter spotlight when he was elected to Congress.
“The possibilities are endless for Joaquin,” said Mickey Ibarra, a former Clinton administration official who is founder and chairman of the Latino Leaders Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together Latino movers and shakers. “Now he and Julian have a national platform. It’s potentially the start of something that lasts a very significant amount of time.”

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In Texas, Joaquin Castro was known for pushing for improvements to education, and raising high school graduation levels among Latinos. Critics find him personally affable though they take issue with his liberal-leaning politics and Democratic views on government spending. Castro said he started entertaining the thought of political office beyond Texas just a few years ago, when he realized there were some things he could not fix as a state lawmaker.

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“I remember when the No Child Left Behind blueprint came out,” he said, “I read the whole blueprint. I attended meetings with folks in education. I noticed that not once did the blueprint mention the word ‘counselors.’”
High school counseling long had been a pet concern of Castro, who saw it as lacking because, he said, the student-to-counselor ratio in much of Texas was 420-to-1. It was something he pushed to address in the state legislature. But improving counseling – which, he said, often is hampered because advisors’ workloads are spread too thin – was critical at the national level, he said.

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“I realized the way I wanted to approach some issues, I would have to deal with them at the federal level,” he said. “There were gaps in my ability to do things at the state level.”

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Joaquin Castro, arguably, is the face of manifold trends involving Latinos and politics.
“If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community, in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority part in our state,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and also a first-timer in Congress, was quoted as saying in The New Yorker.

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Some media reports are already spinning visions of a contested Senate race in six years between Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who was just elected in November, and Joaquin Castro. In the race for Gonzalez’s seat, Castro defeated Republican David Rosa.

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THE TEJANO MONUMENT ON TX CAPITOL GROUNDS: A TESTIMONY OF SPANISH-MEXICAN HERITAGE INFLUENCED IN PRESENT DAY TEXAS CULTURE

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

photo by: Marjorie Kamys Cotera

The Tejano Monument was created to emplace a monument on the Texas Capitol grounds to establish an enduring legacy that acknowledges and pays tribute to the contributions by Tejanos as permanent testimony of the Spanish-Mexican heritage that has influenced and is inherent in present-day Texas culture. For more on history http://www.tejanomonument.com/history/.

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Sculptor Armando Hinojosa took 11 years to create the Tejano masterpiece
Credit: Erin Cargile/KXAN

The long overdue and much anticipated official unveiling of the Tejano Monument at the State Capitol in Austin.  Gov. Rick Perry attended the dedication of a new monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds honoring Hispanic contributions to Texas History. The Tejano Monument is located on the south lawn.

“This important monument reflects a larger truth about the origins of Texas, about the contributions of so many Hispanic citizens to the creation of the state we love and the lives we share,” Gov. Perry said. “These contributions are ongoing with Latinos providing political, business and spiritual leadership in communities throughout Texas. The future of our state is tied directly to the future of our Hispanic population, and I believe we have a glorious future ahead of us.”
The Tejano Monument was created by Laredo artist Armando Hinojosa and consists of 11 life-size sculptures commemorating the 500-year role of Tejanos in Texas and the Spanish-Mexican legacy in the state from 1500 to 1800.

Sculptor Armando Hinojosa took 11 years to create the Tejano masterpiece
Credit: Erin Cargile/KXAN

Work on placing a Tejano Monument at the State Capitol began in 2001, when legislators passed and Gov. Perry signed legislation establishing it. In 2007, the Legislature approved $1.087 million for completion of the monument and an additional $1 million was raised through private donations.

State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond (from left), Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, State Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and State Sen. Judith Zaffirini join in prayer during the dedication of the Tejano Monument at the Texas Capitol in Austin, on Thursday, Mar. 29, 2012.
Photo: Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News / ©2012 San Antonio Express-News

Early Spanish and Mexican pioneers and their descendants have helped shape the way of life in Texas, dating back to the 1500s. Today, some of our state’s top Hispanic leaders include Secretary of State Hope Andrade; Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Elsa Alcala; Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman; Chancellor of the UT System Francisco Cigarroa; Austin Diocese Bishop Joe Vasquez; and Presiding Officer at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Jose Cuevas, just to name a few.

Sculptor Armando Hinojosa took 11 years to create the Tejano masterpiece
Credit: Erin Cargile/KXAN

Among the state lawmakers, official dignitaries, business leaders, school children, and thousands of Texans from across the state taking part in today’s official unveiling were also Texas State Representative Roberto R. Alonzo of Dallas and his wife Sylvana.

“It was an honor indeed to take part in today’s history-making event showcasing the official unveiling of the Tejano Monument at the State Capitol grounds,” said Rep. Alonzo.

State Representative Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas. (File photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

“Witnessing come to fruition the over decade-long effort that began with talks close to 12 years ago  to emplace a monument on the grounds of our State Capitol was truly inspirational, historical, and thought-provoking at the same time.  Furthermore, witnessing Tejanos of all ages from all geographic corners of the state, particularly our school children and young college students, convene in Austin for this event was historical in itself.  The monument acknowledges and pays tribute to the contributions by Tejanos on present-day Texas culture and history, and to see so many people from across the state converge at our State Capitol was testament to that,” continued Rep. Alonzo.

With the official ceremonial unveiling of the majestic Tejano Monument, an enduring legacy has been established to serve as a permanent testimony of the Spanish-Mexican heritage that has influenced and shaped the history of Texas.

For more information about the festivities and other related events, you may contact:  Lino Garcia Jr  via  e-mail at : drlinogarcia@SBCGLOBAL.NET or visit the website at www.nosostroslostejanos.com.

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WHO IS NEW MEXICO’S RISING STAR: GOVERNOR SUSANA MARTINEZ AND HER ULTIMATE IMMIGRANT STORY

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is the ultimate immigrant success story: Two generations after her Mexican grandparents arrived in the U.S., she became the nation’s first Latina governor.

And with an overall approval rating of 66 percent of New Mexicans after more than a year in office, she is arguably the most popular Republican governor in the country.

But that popularity doesn’t always translate among Hispanics, a group that in New Mexico makes up nearly half of the population.

One issue that makes many of the state’s Latino voters seethe is their governor’s stance on driver’s licenses and illegal immigrants. In her 2010 campaign, Martinez promised to repeal a law that makes New Mexico one of only three states in the country where illegal immigrants can get a driver’s license.

Gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez is greeted by supporters Saturday during a rally in Santa Fe. - Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

At a speech in Albuquerque last year, Martinez said getting rid of the law is a matter of public safety.

“We have thousands of individuals who come to our state from not just Mexico, but all over the world in order to gain that very valuable ID,” she said.

A bill to repeal the driver’s license law has failed three times in the state legislature, and some critics charge that Martinez’s support of that bill is really part of a long-term political strategy.

“Why she is introducing policies that are divisive to the Latino community, we could only guess that it’s for political gain,” says Adrian Pedroza, who works with Hispanic neighborhoods in Albuquerque as the director of a local nonprofit.

‘Well, I’ll Be. I’m A Republican.’

Martinez, 52, is often touted as a possible 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, although she has said she would decline any offer.

Martinez grew up in a family of Democrats in a bilingual household in El Paso, Texas, just blocks from the border with Mexico. At 18, she worked in her father’s business as a revolver-carrying security guard outside a bingo hall.

She graduated from law school and later considered entering politics. That’s when some Republican friends took her out to dinner. It’s a story she often shares publicly.

“We talked about values; we talked about where we stood in reference to how the economy was going; we talked about welfare as being a hand up and not a way of life; we talked about the freedoms, the Second Amendment,” she says. “And I remember walking out of there and getting in the car with my husband, Chuck, and saying, ‘Well, I’ll be. I’m a Republican.’ “

Shortly after that, she ran for and was elected district attorney in the southern New Mexico county of Dona Ana.

Bringing In Latino Voters

New Mexico is considered a swing state that tends to lean in favor of Democrats, but the February Rasmussen poll shows Martinez enjoys broad support, even among Democrats, with whom her approval rating tops 50 percent. Among Hispanics in the state, 58 percent approve of the job she is doing, but 33 percent noted they “strongly disapprove” of her job performance — the highest of any group polled.

“I think because she is a Hispanic woman, she gets criticized more,” says Cindy Retana, an El Paso school principal and Martinez’s younger cousin. Retana says Martinez is being singled out for criticism because of her ethnic background. “She’s seen as forgetting where you come from, not being supportive of immigrants, which is absolutely the farthest thing from the truth.”

photo from the LA Times Blog

Martinez has said she is proud of her Mexican heritage, but she faces the same burning question as other high-profile Hispanic Republicans, like Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: Can she make the party more appealing to Latino voters nationwide?

Forty-nine percent of Florida voters approved of Rubio's job performance. | AP Photo

That remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the GOP faces an uphill battle. Another February poll of likely Hispanic voters nationwide, conducted by Fox News Latino, shows President Obama leading either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum by about a five-to-one margin in a prospective matchup.

The same poll found that 18 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for the Republican nominee if Martinez was the vice presidential choice. When Rubio was the vice presidential candidate, that number jumped to 24 percent.

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