Photo: Border issues are a hot topic in the 2012 elections
While Latino organizations point to Texas as a state where election results will be determined by Hispanics, the two Democrats vying to represent El Paso in Congress say that what they believe most important are border issues, apart from any ethnic differences.
“At a state level you can’t neglect the Hispanic community, which is growing, but in border cities we absolutely must deal with border issues because they concern Hispanics and they are the majority,” said Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the May 29 Democratic primary.
O’Rourke, a former El Paso city councilman, said that the Hispanic community on the border is looking for representatives who get involved in border issues, but added that this is what the region’s Anglo and African American communities also want.
Reyes told Efe that border questions are Hispanic issues, but the U.S. Congress passes binational and transnational measures.
“We congressmen from El Paso have to deal with binational and economic issues related to developing relations with Mexico, which is an important trade partner for the state of Texas,” he said.
Reyes said that in the rest of Texas and across the country “the picture is not the same as on the border,” since elsewhere the Hispanic community is not in the majority, but it does carry some weight and presidential candidates will have to “earn its backing by dealing with the issues that affect their lives.”
“At a state level the Hispanic community hopes to hear what will be done about immigration reform and about improving education and health-care services in their communities,” he said.
The National Association of Latino Elected Officials Fund, the biggest organization promoting the participation of Latinos in the U.S. political process, released Wednesday its report for 2012, which states that close to one out of every four Texas voters is Latino.
Between 2000 and 2010 the population of Texas grew by 20.6 percent, from 20.9 million to 25.1 million, while the Hispanic population expanded by 41.8 percent, from 6.7 million to 9.5 million.
The Latino vote in Texas during the presidential election increased from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.7 million in 2008, a jump of 31 percent.
There are currently 12.76 million registered voters in Texas, of whom 23.6 percent are Hispanics.
O’Rourke said that the ethnic group to which a candidate belongs is not a vital to winning the Hispanic vote and explained that despite not being Latino, he has won the ethnicity’s backing previously and hopes to continue to win it in the upcoming primary elections.
Reyes said the Hispanic community appreciates his struggles as a congressman to improve education and provide adequate health-care services, as well as to assure a free flow of travelers and trade across the border.
“I believe my experience has taught me how to get the help we need to facilitate the flow of traffic at international border crossings, not only from my 15 years as a congressman, but also from the time I worked for immigration agencies in the United States,” the former Border Patrol agent said.