Like all voters, Latino voters want respect.
Latino voters do not want to be talked down to by politicians or be told their immigrant families and friends came to the U.S. for a "free deal." Nor are they willing to be ignored by politicians who take their votes for granted without addressing the daily struggles of working families.
We were reminded of that in California last week, and what we expect to find in Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Colorado and Texas in coming weeks as community, civil rights, faith and other groups including SEIU, continue the "¡Todos A Votar!" campaign for Latino voter registration and mobilization.
This public education campaign is designed to enlist new voters and to remind those already eligible to vote, that they truly have the power to determine the outcome of the Nov. 6 election and those that follow moving forward. Latinos can influence the policy agenda for this country if they exercise their right to vote.
Our goals are straightforward: register 650,000 Latino voters and turn out 12 million Latinos on Election Day. We can do it, but it is up to us.
We must vote, for too much is at stake. Our votes will determine whether the Affordable Care Act, which will provide health care coverage to 9 million Latinos, will survive; whether 1.2 million DREAMers will be able to legalize their status, or whether the Department of Homeland Security administrative action granting them temporary relief will be repealed; whether we will finally fix our broken immigration system and allow 11 million people to come out of the shadows and become citizens.
Latino voters also will help decide whether we can ensure that our own children have access to a quality education, from Kindergarten through college; whether workers will have good, decent jobs that provide them a living wage and benefits; whether we will have a fair tax system where everyone pays their fair share so that vital public services are provided.
In California, we found Latino voters and advocacy groups emboldened by the promise of being political players.
The campaign was launched in Stockton, where we heard young Latino leaders like Kevin Ramirez, the president of the California youth movement for the League of United Latin American Citizens, and Alexis Buz of the California DREAM Network, pledge to mobilize other young Latinos -- even if some may not be eligible to vote but have the will to help register voters -- because a strong showing at the polls could stop the erosion of college loan programs and permanently remove the fear of deportation for those who were brought to the country as young children without legal status.
We also were blessed by the presence of Father Dean McFalls, who reported that Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of the Diocese of Stockton recently issued a pastoral letter calling for the faithful to vote because every election requires consideration of "the moral dimensions of extremely important policy and budget issues."
At our stop in the Los Angeles area, representatives of communities of color came together to share the common commitment to flex our political muscle to grow in strength as we grow in numbers. There, members in the audience committed to participating in canvassing operations that will run every day until the election.
Later the same day in Riverside, Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio del RIego of the Diocese of San Bernardino blessed blessed the van carrying the "Todos A Votar" campaigners. "The level of needs is great," he said. "If we want to deal with the needs, we need to have people participating" by voting.
The bishop's comment was echoed by Luz Gallegos, the community programs director for Training Occupational Development Educating Communities (TODEC). Voting "is going to be our salvation," she said.
The California tour ended in San Diego, where voting rights experts urged vigilance against organized groups formed to intimidate Latino voters at the polls. That is another reason why we must meet our registration and turnout goals. If we do not exercise our right to vote, we are giving the power to decide our future to someone else, and we may not like the outcome.
So let's remember. The future is in our hands. We can make history by voting in record numbers this November and in all elections moving forward.
¡Todos a Votar! Let's all vote! We can do it; we will do it.