MIAMI -- The Senate's failure to pass immigration reform sent Latinos the message: fend for yourselves, said Janet Murguía, head of National Council of La Raza, at its recent 2007 conference in Miami. A vocal minority of shock jock radio hosts fueled a mob that overcame Congress, Murguía said.
"We thought we were having a debate on immigration policy," she said. "But it was really a debate about who decides what it means to be an American." While Latinos have been trying hard to be civil and fair, she said, "some of our opponents have taken a different tack," using hatred and bigotry.
In politics, she said, there is a time for coorperation and a time for confrontation -- and Latinos have been cooperating long enough.
Democracy, Murguía said, challenges Latinos now to "ask the tough questions" such as, "What does it mean to be an American?" or "Will you stand up and reaffirm the best of America?"
Integration and further participation in American civic, social and economic life is the only way for Latinos to level the playing field, she said. Voting and mobilizing more voters through the recently announced Ya Es Hora (Now is the Time) campaign, Murguía added, represent the best option for their community to triumph over bigotry.
Click here for the full text (pdf) of Janet Murguía's speech at the 2007 NCLR conference.