LULAC said it is working to bring new membership into its own ranks as the 94-year-old organization steps away from some of its former policies such as immigration control. (Megan Taros for Source New Mexico)
ALBUQUERQUE — The road to the White House in 2024 is through the barrios and in Latino households all over the country.
That’s what Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, also known as LULAC, often repeated at the nonpartisan group’s national conference in Albuquerque as a call for candidates to show up for Latinos nationwide.
Its sister group, Chicanos por La Causa, announced Aug. 3 that it would partner with LULAC to invest $10 million in Latino voter mobilization with a specific focus in Arizona and Nevada, two states where a small margin decided the outcomes of elections in 2022.
“Our voice is our vote. If we want to be heard, we’ve got to do it at the ballot box,” said David Adame, president of Chicanos por la Causa. “The Latino vote already is showing an impact on election outcomes, but we’ve just scratched the surface. There’s no stopping us now.”
The effort is a continuation of Chicanos por la Causa’s $10 million voter mobilization investment in Arizona during last year’s midterms, where several candidates won by razor-thin margins.
The initiative registered more than 37,000 new voters in the state.
But voting is not the full picture, Adame and LULAC leadership said. Lawsuits challenging voter suppression laws, localized events, door-knocking and membership drives are vital to keeping communities civically engaged.
“We have the numbers, and we have the energy,” Garcia said at the press conference. “We just need to tap into both to ensure more Latino candidates are elected, and more Latino issues are being addressed by elected officials.”
Meanwhile, LULAC said it is working to bring new membership into its own ranks as the 94-year-old organization steps away from some of its former policies such as immigration control. In 2016, LULAC faced controversy when its then-president Roger Rocha praised President Donald Trump’s immigration plan.
The plan featured proposals to build a border wall, which many immigrants rights groups denounced as regressive. Rocha’s praise came in spite of opposition from the organization’s board.
But members say they’ve moved on from the “old LULAC” that wasn’t as engaging with its members.
“Now there’s a lot more inclusivity…where we can actually get (member) feedback and sense where our membership is at instead of taking a decision,” said Delma Gorostieta, vice president for young adults at LULAC. “It might be a good decision, but if that’s not where our members are going, we’re a member-based organization so that gives a lot of power to our members and I think that brings in more members.”
Gorostieta has been a member of the organization since she was in high school.
LULAC sees its strength in uniting the wisdom of older members and the innovation of young people through a bipartisan lens. Division between members and their beliefs has always been a challenge, Gorostieta said, but the group says it can still achieve common goals.
“There’s different views in our own organization, but at the end of the day our goals are the same,” she said. “Just reminding the people, the path is different but we’re all here for the Hispanic community.”
Others said LULAC is still able to build Latino political power because it touches on a broad range of issues, such as deported veterans, improving education opportunities, workforce development and protections for civil rights. But it still needs someone to carry the organization into the future.
“There are no more signs – No Mexicans, no dogs allowed – it’s not an overt discrimination like we had in the past,” Garcia said. “It’s harder to get younger Latinos to get involved in the social justice struggles, but that’s where we’re going to be focusing to get a new generation of Latinos and Latinas to take over.”
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