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Hullabaloo


Monday, October 26, 2015

 
Sanders hires Cesar Vargas, high-profile DREAMer activist, for Latino outreach

by Gaius Publius


In another smart move, Bernie Sanders has hired Cesar Vargas, one of the highest-profile and best-respected DREAM activists, to engage with him in Latino outreach.

It's clear that whoever the Democratic nominee is, that person will have to win the Latino vote. It's also clear that the way the Republican party is performing on immigration, the Democratic nominee will do quite well in the general election.

But what about the primary contest? There's apparently a bit of a tussle among Latino activists about which candidate, Sanders or Clinton, is better for their community. Clinton, of course, has the implied or explicit endorsement of most of her party, including a number of prominent Latino politicians, like the Castro brothers — Julian Castro, former San Antonio mayor and current HUD Secretary, and Joaquín Castro, newly elected to the House of Representatives.

But Clinton has had her trouble, at least in the past (video at the link). She has since righted herself on the issue, staking out positions "to the left of President Obama." But I wouldn't count this part of the contest a foregone conclusion.

Cesar Vargas is one of the most prominent of the DREAM activists. Here's the announcement, along with an indication of why he joined with Sanders, from Huffington Post:
Prominent Dreamer Joins Bernie Sanders Campaign

The undocumented activist has been critical of Hillary Clinton.

Cesar Vargas, a leading undocumented activist, joined Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign on Thursday, Vargas' advocacy group announced -- another sign the senator's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is ramping up its efforts on immigration and the Latino vote.

Vargas is a co-founder of the Dream Action Coalition, which is led by young undocumented immigrants, or Dreamers. The group has been heavily critical of Republicans on immigration, but has also chastised President Barack Obama over deportations and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of Sanders' opponents, over donations from private prison lobbyists

Dream Action Coalition has applauded Sanders for his efforts to ban government contracts for private prison companies, which also operate many immigrant detention centers.
As Huffington Post points out, Clinton has also hired an activist from United We Dream, and as noted above, her positions go beyond what Obama is doing. Still, the issue of lobbyist influence on other policies of concern to the Latino community is being raised, especially her support from (and of?) the prison-for-profit industry:
The organization did not endorse Sanders (I-Vt.) but praised him in statements Thursday. Dream Action Coalition co-director Carlos Vargas said Sanders "is a strong choice: he is great on immigration in general, stood with us on the border children and he wants to get the Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and other corporations out of politics," referring to two major private prison companies.

"At the same time that Bernie is trying to chase them out of DC, Hillary is accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from GEO and CCA's registered lobbyists," he continued. "[O]ne day they will call in several hundred thousand dollars worth of favors and skew the discussion on immigration reform to keep their detention facilities full."

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on those donations.
Keep questions about for prison-for-profit support in mind as this primary battle unfolds. Neither candidate looks to be going away soon, which gives them plenty of time to gain leverage on their issues.


Targeting Nevada

One of the earliest Democratic primaries is Nevada, Saturday, February 20, third in the nation and less than two weeks after the New Hampshire primary. With at best an iffy contest for both candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire, a strong showing in Nevada would help with momentum going into the Southern contests.

In addition, Nevada and the Southwest in general have large Latino communities, among whom a variety of issues, such as imprisonment, can be expected to be debated. Don't forget that the notorious "papers please" law that Arizona passed, SB 1070, was heavily financed by the prison-for-profit industry.

Cesar Vargas is expected to be working for Sanders in Nevada. BuzzFeed:
Bernie Sanders continues to grow his Latino outreach staff, adding Cesar Vargas, a high-profile DREAMer activist who has fought for undocumented youth to be able to serve in the military and advocated for Obama’s executive actions on immigration last year.

Vargas, who will initially focus on Nevada, joins the growing Hispanic outreach team led by Arturo Carmona, who recently left advocacy organization Presente to serve in the role as well as the southwest political director.

Vargas, 31, will work to mobilize young voters, particularly in the Southwest, where Nevada is the third state on the Democratic nominating calendar.

A source with knowledge said Sanders’s campaign said they are excited about the hire because of Vargas place at the heart of the DREAMer movement, which will help build a bridge to young Hispanics.

Vargas, who has tried to become the first undocumented lawyer to practice in New York, joins Javier Gonzalez, who was named the Nevada state field director. Gonzalez previously worked in labor for the SEIU, on organizing efforts like the million people “negra marchas” — marches for immigration efforts — in 2006.

Reached for comment, Carmona said Gonzalez hire will help Sanders in Nevada.

“It’s a huge deal. Javier Gonzalez comes from a line of organizing that has amassed a number of political victories organizing Latinos, immigrants, janitors and undocumented immigrants,” he said of his work in California where they worked together.
BuzzFeed notes that while there's a great deal of progressive enthusiasm, "Clinton’s operation in Nevada features experienced operatives who have been in place since April and were part of Obama’s successful 2012 efforts in the state."


Name Recognition

One of the problems Sanders faces is name recognition. This is from Huffington Post again:
Sanders has said he is trying to increase his Latino outreach. An August Gallup poll found that only 25 percent of Latino voters were familiar with him, compared to 75 percent who were familiar with Clinton. ...

"What we are trying very, very hard to do -- you are going to see us moving very aggressively in that area -- is introduce myself to the Latino community," Sanders said at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's annual Public Policy Conference on Oct. 7. "I will fight for every vote I can get in the Latino community."
I don't doubt that. This is turning into the most interesting political campaigns of most of our lifetimes.

Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders in this contest. If you like, you can help Sanders here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)

GP


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