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Hispanic advocacy group Urges Politicians to Engage Latino

James Barragan

Austin American Statesman

Oct 13, 2016

Photo by Statesman on nclr press conference

Gabriel Nila, a Republican candidate for Dawnna Duke seat in the Texas House, participated on a panel with students from East Austin College Prep during a program featuring Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, who was speaking at Southwest Key in east Austin about the need to engage Latino and young voters in the upcoming election. Photo by Austin American Statesman

The president of the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group in the country urged politicians to engage Latinos and young voters during a stop in Austin on Thursday morning.

“For us, this is about participation,” said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. “It’s about trying to create a culture of civic engagement and participation in the civic process.”

Murguia, who was in town for her organization’s Texas fall regional, stopped by the East Austin College Prep on Thursday morning and addressed a room full of students, teachers, parents and politicians from the Austin area.

In an interview, Murguia said there is a sense among Latinos that both major political parties take them for granted and only try to engage them during presidential election years.

“There has to be more of an effort in engaging Latino voters,” she said. “We have to make sure we’re reminding people about sustaining engagement between presidential cycles.”

As an example, she said, the National Council of La Raza has registered over half a million voters since 2008. But more work needs to be done, she said, especially in Texas where nearly 40 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin.

A growing Hispanic population in the state, Murguia said, is an opportunity for representation that should not be squandered. Forty-four percent of Latino voters in the country are millennials and the National Council of La Raza expects that demographic to keep growing. One million Latinos will reach voting age every year until 2028, according to the group’s research.

“One of the reasons we’re here is to show we’re invested in the new generation,” Murguia said.

Following Murguia’s remarks, students at the school engaged in a question-and-answer forum with local candidates for political office, including Gabriel Nila, who is running as a Republican to replace State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin.

As she signed off, Murguia took a parting shot at this year’s presidential politics.

“Unfortunately this election has not been about the issues,” she said, adding that Latinos and immigrants have been scapegoated. “We are nobody’s punching bag and we can use the power of our vote to punch back.”