June 29, 2004
Voter registration and turnout will make the difference between Hispanics seizing their future or settling for second-class status, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus said Monday.
"If we do not exercise the power that is in our hands, then we will not reach our full promise," U.S. Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told a crowd of about 2,000 people attending the National Council of La Raza convention in the Phoenix Civic Plaza ballroom.
Menendez, called the highest-ranking Hispanic in the history of Congress, made it clear how he thought those votes should be cast. While acknowledging the bipartisan nature of the audience, Menendez declared that the Democratic Party is the "party of Hispanics in this country."
"If we flex our political muscle, we will never again see a budget like the budget this president submitted to Congress," Menendez said. President Bush’s budget, he said, "rewards the wealthy" and hurts bilingual education and college financial aid.
As for illegal immigration, Menendez said he supported legalizing the status of immigrants already in the country, allowing the families of migrants to move here, and supporting more strongly the economies of Latin American countries.
The four-day convention, which ends today, drew thousands of Hispanic business and community leaders from around the country.