Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MAPA and HML Applauds Los Angeles City Council on Immigration Resolution but Calls for Action on Stopping Raids

HML LogoPhotobucket


Tuesday, March 26, 2008
For Immediate Release

MAPA and HML Applauds Los Angeles City Council on Immigration Resolution but Calls for Action on Stopping Raids

MAPA and HML call for immediate action opposing local raids against the work place and neighborhoods: Eliminate impounding of vehicles for no driver’s license; Declare Los Angeles a Sanctuary City; and Issue municipal IDs to any resident desiring one

Los Angeles, CA. The Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana (HML) applaud the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, and the City Council for approving a council resolution opposing the oppressive SAVE ACT and the general declaration of opposition to enforcement-only measures by the federal government.

“This is a good start but more urgent action is required by city leaders,” declared Nativo V. Lopez, National President of MAPA and HML.

The local elected leadership of Los Angeles can do much more to protect its residents against invasive enforcement action by the Bush administration at both work-places and neighborhoods. In February 2008, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the Van Nuys-based computer company Micro Solutions Enterprises and arrested 140 workers and illegally detained dozens of others against their will. This is the type of raids, which target work-places, displace workers, separate families, and create a state of terror in the community.

The increasingly repressive environment created by such wanton enforcement actions requires an opposing environment of protection, sanctuary, and defense for the working families that comprise our community and work-places.

MAPA and HML call upon Los Angeles’ political leadership to take the following steps to demonstrate good faith to the millions of immigrants who have chosen to live, work, pray, and education themselves in this city, and the millions of others who also claim the city of Los Angeles as their home.

1. Demand that the federal government cease and desist from any further work-place and neighborhood ICE raids, an immediate moratorium, until the U.S. Congress approves fair and humane immigration reform; City leaders should convene an urgent meeting with officials of the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and ICE to demand that no further raids such as that which occurred at Micro Solutions Enterprises recurs in Los Angeles;

2. Immediately approve a new policy to cease the impounding of vehicles simply due to the lack of a driver’s license in accordance with a Ninth Circuit Federal Court decision already very familiar to the City Council and Mayor’s office;

3. Declare the City of Los Angeles a sanctuary city, similarly as was so declared by Mayor Tom Bradley during another period of anti-immigrant hysteria, and during which Mayor Bradley demonstrated extraordinary courage and political will, and therefore, begin to create a welcoming and protective environment to immigrants;

4. Approve a policy to issue municipal I.D.s to any resident desiring or applying for one irrespective of immigration status, income, age, or homelessness circumstance as a humane and fair public policy approach contrary to the efforts by others to criminalize individuals and de-identify them out of existence due to circumstances many times not in their control.

5. Establish an office of immigrant and refugee affairs to address the myriad needs of the immigrant communities of the city from both a policy and program dimension, and approve appropriate staffing considering the billions of dollars of contributions represented by the immigrant work-force, businesses, and investments accrued to the city.

These are elementary first, but urgent, steps that the city’s political leadership must take to demonstrate good faith, will, and commitment to those who have so endowed this great city. These are steps within the jurisdictional domain of our city fathers and mothers – and not so easily deferred to the federal government, or until the federal government takes action, which in most cases becomes the new pretext to do nothing, but issue laudable platitudes or even verbal rebuke.

We are surely living in difficult times, but however any elected official may feel the heavy burden of public service on his or her shoulders, make no mistake that the weight of society’s problems are never as burdensome as those bore by the immigrants, especially those chosen by circumstances and life to be wanting of legal documentation at the moment. These are the least of these my brethren for whom we are called upon to raise our voices in unison and solidarity that really matters – the kind that changes policy and circumstances of life.


Nativo V. Lopez is currently the National President of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and Hermandad Mexicana Latinomamericana (HML), which requires of him full-time advocacy for the civil, human, labor, and immigrant rights of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Latinos throughout the United States. He has dedicated his life to these causes since his years as a high school student where he founded the first student movement organization, United Mexican American Students (UMAS). He was born in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles in 1951 to Mexican American parents, and is of both eighth-generation native U.S. born and immigrant stock. Nativo met the legendary immigrant organizer, leader, and advocate, Humberto “Bert” Corona, in 1971 and worked with him in various capacities for thirty years with the organizations Center for Autonomous Social Action (CASA), Hermandad Mexicana, and MAPA. He was a lead organizer in the 2006 pro-immigrant marches and was part of the creation of the National Alliance for Immigrant’s Rights (NAIR) in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, go to

The Mexican American Political Association, an advocacy organization, was founded in Fresno, California in 1963 and has chapters throughout California. It is dedicated to the constitutional and democratic principles of political freedom and representation for the Mexican, Mexican-American and Latino people in the United States. For more information, visit the MAPA website at

Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana (National Mexican Latin American Brotherhood), an advocacy organization for immigrants, was created in 1951 to achieve the development and integration of Latino immigrants that live in the United States. It is dedicated to improving economic and social opportunities of immigrants and their families, and maintains that a better future for children is an inalienable right. For more information, visit the HML website at

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where does Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, stand on Immigration Reform?

Antonio Villaraigosa (March)

Many in Los Angeles are wondering.

“Don’t forget immigration reform,” wrote USC professors Dowell Myers and Manuel Pastor in a 22 March 2008 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. The well-respected Myers and Pastor make the case that the first step towards immigration reform, and through it continued economic prosperity for the United States, involves changing perceptions towards immigrants. Immigrants, they contend, should not be “viewed as a problem to be solved but [as] an asset to our regional future.” The question is: “Where does Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, stand on immigration reform?”

Myers and Pastor explain why Los Angeles has to play a leading role in the debate: “We in Los Angeles County have a special interest in this topic: One-third of our residents are immigrants, and nearly half of our labor force is foreign-born. Two-thirds of our youth are the children of immigrants, 90% of them U.S.-born. …our region's economic resilience depends on how these immigrant families and their children fare in coming years.”

Myers and Pastor call for “business, community, labor, and government leaders to focus attention on our immigrant and regional future,” since “clearly we cannot wait for Washington, we must start this conversation now in Los Angeles.” Ever since Antonio Villaraigosa was elected Mayor of Los Angeles in 2005, expectations have ran high that he would stand up for issues of importance to Latinos (not to mention all Angelenos). So what happened?

With the Mayor’s Office silent, and immigration a hot election year issue, Washington has gone on the offensive. In February 2008, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security conducted a brash, foolhardy workplace raid at Micro Solutions Enterprises (MSE) in Van Nuys, California. The company, owned by Israeli immigrant and American citizen Avi Wazana, had been in substantial compliance with federal laws regarding employment eligibility, and had even received assurances from ICE that they would not raid his company.

Very little media attention has been paid to this immigration enforcement, one of the most dramatic raids Los Angeles has seen in the past 25 years. MSE, a fast-growing and award-winning manufacturer, had been committed to manufacturing in the U.S. and had even moved jobs to the U.S. from overseas -- the reverse of the outsourcing that we have seen around us the past decade. The results of this reckless, wanton enforcement were sudden, and invoked a dramatic economic and social impact. At the caprice of the federal government, an $80 million business was nearly paralyzed and potentially destroyed. Over 140 innocent workers were arrested and hundreds of others lost their jobs. Dozens of Americans were detained illegally against their will in a mass detention.

While an upstanding corporate citizen has been mercilessly thrown into chaos, there has been no attention paid to the impact that continued enforcements of this kind would have on the social and economic fabric of Los Angeles, for certainly more are in the works. We have heard almost nothing from the Mayor on the subject, even though it is well known that our city has developed a deep economic dependence on immigrant labor. The majority of workers in various labor-force segments are undocumented. It is commonly accepted that approximately one million people living in Los Angeles County are undocumented; they include rank and file workers, managers, skilled employees, and entrepreneurs alike.

The Mayor has already stated that jobs and the economy are the biggest challenges Los Angeles faces. The economy of our city depends on a harmonious and stable business environment. An intensification of immigration enforcements by ICE, given the prevalence of undocumented workers in Los Angeles, could lead to an economic disruption our city has not seen in decades. Why should the people and the economy of Los Angeles suffer solely because the Bush Administration wants to look "tough" on the issue of immigration? National opinion polls suggest that most Americans support the integration of undocumented workers into the economy and granting them permanent status. Mayor Villaraigosa should stand up for the city and call upon the Bush Administration to discontinue these senseless enforcements in Los Angeles until such time that the federal government has enacted comprehensive reform of immigration laws.

Many commentators have drawn attention to the Mayor's political aspirations at the national level. In light of immigration having become such a high profile issue this election year; it is ironic that our Mayor has been silent on the very issue that is of paramount importance to our city. Has Mayor Villaraigosa lost his sense of judgment and responsibility where our city is concerned? For the Mayor to remain silent and complicit while these immigration enforcements damage the social and economic landscape of Los Angeles borders on gross negligence at best and a betrayal at worst. It is also at odds with a sincere position supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Both the workers and employers of our city have expected more and it is high time that the Mayor started to deliver.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sensenbrenner-like Bills A Political Ploy

duncan hunter

The 110th Congress has not even completed the first quarter of 2008 and the sharpened fangs of the Republican side of the aisle are protruding overtime to introduce anti-immigrant legislation of the Sensenbrenner clamor – in both chambers. It's political one-upmanship of the worst kind led by the Republican legislators during this presidential election year, but also includes 48 Democrats in the House who are considered politically vulnerable freshmen who knocked off Republicans to claim their seats. And, now the real political campaigning begins and immigration once again is the political football.

It's not lost on anyone that the Republicans do not have sufficient votes to prevail in either chamber, if the Democrats hold firm. However, the real intention is to unnerve the Democrats who are running strong this year due to a combination of factors pressing on the voters – the slowing economy already resulting in massive job loss, the spreading housing debacle with crippling foreclosures, the continuing war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the growing number of medically uninsured. Additionally, a growing number of states are facing steep budget deficits with no expectation of any federal revenue back-fill. This sounds more like a legislative equivalent of the Willie Horton or Swift Boat ads reminiscent of the 1988 Bush, Sr. and the 2004 Bush, Jr. election strategies. And, considering the deteriorating economic status of a growing number of families during eight years of a Republican administration, immigration is a tried and tested diversion and the immigrants an easy scapegoat.

The series of legislative proposals, 14 at last count, are highlighted by an unprecedented measure to require a two-year maximum jail term for anyone caught crossing the border unauthorized a second time. Other measures include depriving states of 10% of highway funds if they continue the practice of issuing a driver's license to the undocumented, extend the presence of the National Guard along the border, end language assistance at federal agencies and the voting booth for the limited English-speaking, block funding to cities that prevent local police from inquiring about immigration status, authorize local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws, deport immigrants, legal and undocumented, for only one drunk-driving offense, and complete the 700 miles of border fencing construction at the southern border. This is enforcement over the top and would lead to criminalizing the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country, and all new unauthorized entrants, not to mention the hundreds of billions of dollars required to make any of this work.

While not explicitly endorsed by the Democratic leadership, newcomer Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina has introduced a bill in the House thoroughly invasive of every workplace nationally. He is considered typical of many conservative freshmen Democrats fighting to retain their seats in competitive congressional districts. The Shuler-Tancredo Bill, H.R.4088, dubbed the Secure America with Verification and Enforcement Act or SAVE ACT would require that all businesses, within four years, use the government's E-Verify system to ascertain the legal status of their employees, increase the Border Patrol by an additional 8,000 officials, and train state and local police to enforce immigration laws. This number of new border agents would move the current total to 24,000, although it could be higher when past legislation and budget allocations are taken into consideration. The Democrat Shuler has teamed up to craft this legislation with the recalcitrant xenophobe Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo who based his failed presidential bid on a thoroughly anti-immigrant platform.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, considered a liberal from California's Bay Area, has expressed opposition to enforcement-only measures, but would embrace some of the principles without being specific. She clearly feels responsible to provide political cover to these Blue Dog conservative Democrats and protect them from a Republican onslaught using the immigration issue to tilt voters in their direction. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, from Texas, is one of the 48 Democratic co-sponsors of this right-wing legislation, for example. The irony is that he won his seat by beating out an incumbent Republican of Mexican American origin through mobilizing the Latino community, many of whom participated in the massive marches in 2006 to defeat HR4437, the Sensenbrenner Bill. Pelosi risks alienating the party's Latino and immigrant base if she goes too far past the political center to accomplish her goals.

Senator Robert Menendez,a New Jersey Democrat, one of three Latino senators, has been a stalwart opponent of draconian approaches that demonize immigrants and is expected to hold the line against similar senate versions. However, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been characteristically quiet and less than united in responding to these initiatives in both chambers. It is rumored that some legislators within the caucus may be designing their own package. The fear is that they may error again too far in favor of accepting so-called trade offs – stringent enforcement in exchange for less than inclusive legalization schemes.

The Democrats should take heart in the fact that the most recent pattern of election results, when immigration has been used to motivate conservative voters, demonstrates that the majority electorate is not so easily manipulated to the tune of opportunistic politicians and candidates. The extreme conservative Republican presidential candidates – Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter – never even scored a 1% response favorable to their candidacies. And, they were unceremoniously booted from the campaign trail.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mozilo the Subprime Gorilla

Mozilo 1 gorilla

In the light of the U.S.’s worst housing debacle in the last half-century, and no real end in sight, the perpetually tanned founder of Countrywide Financial Corp., Angelo Mozilo, was hammered by a congressional committee for unloading $141 million in stock options. Mozilo claims that that his gain was fortuitous and not timed or manipulated before the company collapsed. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, does not see it that way.

The company lost $1.7 billion during the last two quarters of 2007, and its stock plunged 80% between February 2007 and the end of the year. Over $20 billion stock value was wiped out literally overnight. Nevertheless, during that same period Mozilo was compensated with $1.9 million salary and $20 million in stock bonuses contingent upon company performance. Not a bad year for the 69 year-old executive who was also planning his retirement for 2008. The company and stockholders lose and he wins. Millions of homeowners lose their equity, default on their loans and are cast out of their homes, and Mozilo makes out like a bandit.
And now, it has been revealed that the FBI is investigating Countrywide and its executives, say Mozilo, for alleged securities fraud. Throw in the Justice Department investigation, according to the New York Times, on top of the FBI for not being completely honest with the public about the depth of possible defaults unraveling across the country.

And unraveling they are. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that according to a report by Moody’s nearly 9 million homeowners, close to one-tenth of all mortgage loans nationally, will have seen their equity evaporate by the end of this month or will have mortgage balances that exceed what their homes are worth. It would be outrageous that borrowers would just walk away from these mortgages, their obligations. At least this is the attitude of Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. who “contends that homeowners are obligated to keep paying on their home loans.” “Any homeowner who can afford his mortgage payments, but chooses to walk away from an underwater property is simply a speculator – and one who is not honoring his obligations.”

Now, that seems very morally trite considering the unwillingness of the Bush administration, and congress for that matter, to intervene on the side of the lowly homeowner occupant (not speculator) in the worst housing downturn perhaps since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In fact, they wouldn’t be doing anything worst than their lender – such as in the case of Countrywide, but many other financial institutions who also gamed the system, preyed on anxious consumers, steered clients to exotic loan products, and refined the practices of predatory lending. And, they made billions of dollars. When we factor in how these loans were sold on the secondary market to investors as securities, perhaps trillions of dollars were pocketed.

Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben S. Bernanke last week pointed out the obvious. Millions of homeowners will walk away from their mortgage debt unless banks act quickly by cutting the size of the loans, and not just trim interest rates. I applaud Bernanke for agreeing with me. This is exactly what I recommended to the California Senate Budget Committee in a hearing conducted in Sacramento during February 2007, along with the Greenlining Institute. Some sincere California legislators continue to probe possible remedies to the current crisis, although their hands are pretty much tied. They do not control the financial mechanisms to regulate the banking industry or tinker with interest rates and credit. They do have the authority, however, to rein in and punish unregulated mortgage companies and brokers who continue to prey on the unsuspecting and uneducated borrower. I’m still waiting for that legislation. We endured 2007 and nothing from the California legislature, and only platitudes and empty promises from the Governator.

Bernanke knows of what he speaks. “Housing prices are falling in many parts of the country… the resulting decline in equity reduces both the ability and the financial incentive of stressed borrowers to remain in their homes.” His matter-of-fact advise to the banking industry considering the alternative was to take their knocks and acknowledge that “principal reductions that restore some equity for the homeowner may be a relatively more effective means of avoiding delinquency and foreclosure.” In other words, do what they normally do when businesses default on their loans – take the loss and rewrite the loans realistically.

Could this crisis have been avoided? Probably not. I vividly recall visiting the splendorous Calabasas headquarters of Countrywide Financial Corp. in 2006 to meet with CEO Angelo Mozilo, part of a Greenlining Institute delegation, to advocate against predatory lending practices and call upon the top mortgage lender nationally to create an industry model for good lending practices. How naïve of us! Little did we know that Mozilo had already increased his payroll by 12,000 new hires to aggressively market newfangled loan products to induce an unsophisticated public to buy into what has become an unmitigated American nightmare. Tanned, cocky, undersized stature, with a toothy smile, Mozilo extolled his rags to riches story, the son of poor Italian immigrants who never owned their own home, and guaranteed us of his virtuous motives that every American should be a homeowner. This was his mission, he claimed. Today, two-thirds of the sub-prime loans issued by his company are in default – teetering on foreclosure.

Bank of America has agreed to pull Countrywide’s chestnuts out of the fire for $4 billion. Will it do the same for the hoodwinked borrowers? That remains to be seen.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What's Up with Latinos and Clinton?

Hillary on Bill

Much has been commented on the Latino voter preference for Senator Hillary Clinton, particularly in the California primary elections, and now potentially in Texas – the make-or-break election on March 4th for the New York senator.

It is estimated that Latinos pulled the ballot box lever for her candidacy to the tune of 67 percent. Much has been made of her California triumph over Senator Barack Obama by ten percent, not a large margin in reality, but an important victory none-the-less. And, Latinos were said to have been the determinant. Can she score a similar win in the Lone Star state where Latinos constitute 25 percent of the electorate? Will Latino voters bring it home for her again?

I have heard and read probably most (enough) of the analysts and newfound experts on the Latino vote and their superficial interpretations. And, quite frankly, all have missed the mark. Some talk about racial prejudice holding Latinos back from showering an African American with their votes. Others reflect on the “good” done by President Bill Clinton and his Latino appointments (I can only remember three of national prominence – Cisneros, Peña, and Richardson). Hillary’s commitment to healthcare reform and other good deeds benefiting Latinos and a 1972 stint in a voter registration campaign in south Texas amongst Mexican rural colonias, are also mentioned.

While each reason identified above may engender a grain of truth, a snapshot analysis does not suffice for the real thing. The truth lies elsewhere. The story goes back to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, better known as the amnesty bill signed into law by the then President Ronald Reagan.

Well over 3 million individuals qualified to legalize their immigration status beginning in May 1987, and they came of electoral age in January 1996 upon obtaining U.S. citizenship that same year. The November 1996 presidential election was their first voting experience as new citizens, and Bill Clinton was the man, notwithstanding that he had previously signed into law numerous onerous measures detrimental to immigrants generally, but particularly harsh on Latinos.

The border wall with Mexico and the border deaths phenomena made their first appearance under Clinton. Immigration laws punishing unlawful entrants with few prospects for waivers and harsher bars to legalize their status through family petitions, the elimination of legal provisions to permit adjustment to legal status without first being forced to leave the country, and streamlined removal of denied asylum applicants, the denial of benefits to legal permanent residents, the removal of legal residents for certain criminal offenses, and other similar measures led to a ballooning undocumented population only too soon after the 1986 landmark law. However, immigrants only began to feel the full weight of this right-wing turn in the law and its application by the final year of the Clinton tenure.

Nevertheless, millions of new Latino citizens had acquired the vote and made their presence felt in numbers not previously experienced in the U.S. The biggest electoral gains by Latino candidates to political office began in earnest from 1996 forward. In fact, three factors propelled greater citizenship acquisition during this period – one, the passage of the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 in California, two, the passage of Clinton immigration legislation to deny federal social benefits to legal permanent residents, and three, the newly legalized immigrants became eligible for citizenship and proceeded to file millions of petitions to legally immigrate other family members, and to register to vote.

The political landscape for Latinos in heavy legalization states would never be the same – California, Texas, Illinois, and New York – to name the top four. While the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) could provide the figures with exactitude, my anecdotal observations are that the greatest number ever of Latinos elected to public office at the local, state, and federal level occurred during President Clinton’s second term with the advent of millions of new Latino voters. During this same period we also observed the fastest increase of Spanish language media and small business development.

Latinos, then, came of age politically under Clinton’s second term and patronage, and this included its political positioning within the Democratic Party on a regional and national level.

This in the main accounts for the endorsement of Hillary Clinton by higher than 80 percent of Latino elected officials, particularly those of the older generation. The Clinton name is that which appeared on the first ballot cast by the millions of new citizens. He (and his first lady) was president when the new immigrant citizen enjoyed immediate social integration and acceptance, and an improvement in their economic income and social wage. This is the first generation voting citizen of immigrant stock – the least formal education, lowest income, slightest political experience, but loyal to a fault. As a result of their legalized status they claimed the opportunity to immigrate millions of their loved ones and raise their children, both native born and undocumented, from under the shadow of dubious legal status.

Is gender politics a factor amongst Latina voters? Certainly, no different than how women throughout the country size up the prospect of electing the first women president.

Does racial prejudice motivate some Latino voters contrary to the Obama candidacy? Undoubtedly, not dissimilar to how racial prejudice shapes the opinions of other racial or national origin constituencies. Nevertheless, the historical experience indicates that Latinos have consistently voted in favor of African American candidates. The names of Tom Bradley, Harold Washington, and David Dinkins are notable examples.

Did Latinos fair well economically under the Clinton reign? Invariably a minority prospered well similar to the African American middle class experience. The Latino political elite was the most natural beneficiary. However, the mass of workers saw their wages stagnate, and eventually decline, and manufacturing jobs began a brisk disappearance from the American landscape directly attributable to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) consummated by free trader Bill. Some prominent political appointments do not a broad social advance for the mass of Latino workers make.

Lastly, Hillary Clinton has been campaigning for the past fifteen years, most especially in California. She has assiduously called in all the political chits common to any system of political patronage. Her fundraising prowess was unparalleled – that is until the young senator from the Land of Lincoln arrived on the scene. Name identification means everything in politics and is the first advantage staked out by a candidate. Clinton certainly had the initial edge. These are additional factors that explain the Latino electorate inclination towards the former first lady.

On the other hand, Senator Obama has slight but growing name recognition amongst Latinos, few but growing prominent Latino endorsers, a scant but strengthening political organization within these communities, and meager information about his political record, accomplishments, and platform. What he lacks in these areas, though, he makes up for with personal magnetism, a similar background story, the image of an outsider, and persuasive oratorical flair.

The Texas primary will once again test the pundits’ ability to interpret the Latino vote.

Money Better Spent on Mining Latino Votes

money Latinos
Many consider next Tuesday’s primary election in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as a mini-Super Tuesday make-or-break election for Senator Hillary Clinton. And both Democratic Party candidates are beating the band to woo Latino voters into their column to settle the question, the ultimate party favorite to square off with the presumptive Republican Party candidate, Senator John McCain.

They are really doing more than beating the band. According to James Pinkerton, his article appeared in the Houston Chronicle on February 29, 2008, Sens. Clinton and Obama are spending unprecedented sums to convey their messages in Spanish ads as “part of a Texas primary media blitz that one national campaign finance expert estimates will end up dumping $20 million in Texas for the March 4 contest.” (Click here for the article.)

My impression is that no previous political campaign has spent as much marketing to Latinos, albeit the lion’s share will undoubtedly land in the coffers of corporate media outlets – a huge boon for the Spanish language networks.

It appears that Latinos represent the mother lode of votes to determine the outcome in Texas, fully 25 percent of the state electorate. This is a higher percentage than they represent in California, and while 30 percent of the state’s Democratic Party primary turnout was Latino, an estimated 67 percent swung for Clinton. All things being equal in relation to other segments of the Texan electorate, African Americans will likely support Senator Barack Obama in the 90 percentage range, the white vote will split between the two, and the Latino vote is the unknown in play. It’s nice to be wanted.

This is why I have always advocated for competitive districts, multiple parties, choice diversity, and an electoral system of the 21st century in America – proportional representation, public campaign financing, equal media access, redistricting of districts not by the seated legislators, elimination of the archaic electoral college, same day registration, and other necessary democratic electoral reforms. This all would make for much greater participation in civil society by all constituencies.

But, back to the money question in Texas. Mariachi bands, Spanish language ballads lauding the attributes of the candidates, messages emphasizing family values, healthcare reform and educational access, while minimizing the immigration issue, are costing Clinton and Obama literally millions – an estimated $8 million for the former, $10 million for the later, and the remainder by others. And this is just in a matter of several weeks of media exposure. What a waste! All message, but where’s the proverbial beef?

The money could be better spent to empower a still too disenfranchised electorate – in voter registration, education, organization, and ultimately, mobilization. In fact, those experienced in voter registration peg the reasonable investment amount of $10 per new registrant in the average campaign. In another words, a $20 million investment in such a laudable and democratic experiment could harvest 2 million new Latino voters empowered to cast their lot with those who truly value their worth – think enough about them to invest in their electoral empowerment, in human capital not just media mesmerizing.

The Willie C. Velasquez Institute estimates that there are still six million unregistered eligible Latino citizens to be harvested. It also estimates that of the close to 10 million Latino registered voters nationally, less than 60 percent actually reach the ballot box on Election Day to punch for their candidate preference. The 40 percent voter apathy is really a question of education and motivation. On a different note, there are also 9 million permanent legal residents eligible for U.S. citizenship status – a mine full of potential new voters.

What party and candidate(s) speak to the issues of relevance and concern to Latino voters, short on rhetoric and long on concerted action, legislation, and social mobilization? Who will bring these voters to the dance as Willie C. Velasquez, in life, used to repeat the old Texan refrain? A recent experience demonstrates that one astute right-wing political advisor/consultant had it right (for this side) when he bet on and worked to bring a reported 4 million energized voters into the presidential fray of 2004 – the evangelical factor. I am referring to Mr. Karl Rove. George W. won his second term and all else is history.

This was a good example of a campaign putting its money where its mouth is. Can Clinton and Obama say as much, or the Democratic Party for that matter? Only time will tell, but the Texas experience indicates that they still don’t get the message.