Exclusive: Latino coalition releases policy agenda for 2016 U.S. election

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 7:05 AM

By Luciana Lopez

(Reuters) - A coalition of some of the largest U.S. Latino organizations on Thursday will lay out a raft of policies that, they say, presidential candidates and other politicians must heed to earn the votes of the growing group of voters.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), which includes 40 national and regional groups, will recommend policies on everything from economic security, education and comprehensive immigration reform to the environment and health.

For Latino communities and the politicians seeking their votes - including candidates in the November 2016 presidential election - the agenda is a "road map," said Hector Sanchez, the chairman of the NHLA.

"For the next four years, this is our guide for collaborating with Congress and collaborating with the White House," he added.

The agenda underscores the growing power of Latinos as a part of the electorate, as presidential candidates have sought to win over those voters on the way to the White House.

Latinos are among the nation's fastest growing ethnic groups, and, because of lower voter turnout levels in the past, represent a potential pool of previously untapped voters.

The campaigns of both Democratic contenders for the presidency, for example, have recently argued over who actually won the Hispanic vote at last week's Nevada caucus.

While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the state overall, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said that entrance polls show he won Hispanics. The Clinton campaign disputes those numbers.

The NHLA's agenda recommends expanding job opportunities, improving retirement security and increasing support for homeownership.

Under immigration, the group wants to see comprehensive immigration reform - a hot button issue in this year's election. The group wants a path to citizenship, protections for immigrant workers and family reunification provisions, among other items.

"The NHLA also supports addressing the root causes of forced migration and opposes efforts that call into question the citizenship of persons born in the United States," the group wrote in the 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for his party's nomination, has repeatedly taken a hard line against illegal immigration, calling for the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico.

Trump angered a number of activists, Latinos and others when, in launching his campaign last year, he suggested that Mexican immigrants were rapists and criminals.

But the criticisms have done little to stop him, with Trump now having won three of the four earliest nominating contests among Republican contenders.

(Reporting by Luciana Lopez in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)