For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, DC – The President of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), Senator Carmelo Ríos (PR), delivered a speech yesterday at the Latino Leaders Network Luncheon Series. Below please find his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Buenas tardes. Good afternoon. It’s an honor to be here with you today. Thank you, Mickey and the Latino Leaders Network for creating a forum where our community can have a frank and open discussion – in a bipartisan manner – on the future of Latinos and our Nation. I want to recognize the Honorable Bob Menéndez, a true champion of the Latino community in the Senate, who has broken barriers, and overcome adversity, to show us what a leader for all Hispanics should be like. Gracias Senador. I also want to recognize Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr., for his work on behalf of immigrants and his push to improve social mobility. Thank you, Reverend.
“As Mickey mentioned, I was elected President of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators in February of this year. For almost 30 years now, we at NHCSL have been representing Hispanic state legislators, from all across the country, who today number over 400, through our advocacy here in DC and by helping all our members be better informed in policy and strategy.
“NHCSL works in a bipartisan manner on many issues, including criminal justice reform, equal access to technology, quality healthcare and affordable housing, as well as promoting respect and equality for all people: from immigrants, to women, to racial, religious and ethnic minorities, including non-Hispanics.
“But for the last two years, it feels like we have been in overdrive – in a permanent state of emergency, constantly fighting to defend our community, one attack after the other. Frankly, I don’t know about you, but I am angry!
“I’m angry at the cruel images we see on TV of families being separated at the border. I am angry at the reckless efforts to fracture our nation, by pitting one group against the other, in a war of us versus them.
“I am angry at the conniving efforts to undercount our people in the 2020 Census, depriving us of much-needed resources and political representation. I am angry because of the Muslim ban, the building of a wall, the attempts to strip LGBT people of their civil rights, and the constant attacks on the press.
“I am angry at all those things, and I know you are angry at them too. But, you know what makes me even more angry?! The fact that nearly two years ago, 27 million Latinos were eligible to vote, and only 13 showed up at the polls, and now, here we are, in 2018, and it looks like ‘history repeating’. And that makes me angry!
“Because perhaps, in 2016, the hateful rhetoric trumpeted against us was just words. But now, we are living it, in our own flesh! So, this time, what is the excuse? Doing nothing about it on Election Day is immoral --- not as immoral as the cages full of innocent children --- but immoral nonetheless.
“We need to wake up, people! Get out of our comfort zones, and ask ourselves, what more can we do to make sure Latinos register, and show up to vote!
“Let’s be real here. We spend too much energy, dollars, ink, and breath being outraged. Indignation is righteous, but it’s useless if we just watch the images of children on Telemundo and Univisión, and don’t get our 27 million fellow Hispanics to vote.
“Events like this Luncheon cannot be just about reconnecting with friends. They cannot be just about recharging our political batteries. They have to be about action.
“We talk about the power of the Latino vote, and sometimes, it feels like we’re drinking our own KoolAid. The fact is, that there is no power if we don’t flex our collective muscle and make sure that our fellow Americans know that all of you, and that all Hispanics, share my anger.
“I cannot just denounce the racist remarks of a Congressional candidate down in Florida, who said Puerto Ricans that have moved there should not be able to vote.
“I have to go there and knock on every door and urge my fellow boricuas, and every Hispanic, to go out and vote. And I’ve been doing that and will keep doing it until the day of the election itself.
“But it’s not just me knocking at doors. At the National Hispanic Caucus, we’re also doing it through public policy, like promoting legislation making Election Day a holiday, so that people can go to the polls. Because, voting on Election Day is as patriotic, if not more, than celebrating our Nation, with fireworks on the 4th of July holiday.
“Let me be clear. I don’t care if you’re a Republican, or a Democrat, or an Independent. We need to show up and vote. And we also need to elect our people. Because if we don’t have seats at the table, we become part of the menu. And I don’t know about you, but I am angry that our people seem to be the main course of this Administration’s menu.
“¡Ya basta! Basta con la injusticia. Pero ya basta, también, con la resignación de nuestra comunidad.
“My message to you is this: we need ---we must--- turn our indignation into votes, because if not, whatever happens next will be our fault. If we don’t do everything we can to empower our community, to register and show up in November, then the result ---and it will be a negative result--- will be on us, all of us in this room. This is the Latino Leaders Network, and if there’s people who can do it, it’s us. ¿Verdad que sí? No oigo, ¿verdad que podemos?
“¡Sí se puede, vamos a trabajar duro, para que nuestra comunidad se inscriba y salga a votar! And, let’s come back next year to this Latino Leaders’ forum, still wiping sweat from our foreheads, as we walk into this room, and celebrate the fruits of that hard work, by saying:
“¡YA ERA HORA (coño)!
“Muchas gracias a todos. Thank you.”
NHCSL is the premier national association of Hispanic state legislators working to design and implement policies and procedures that will improve the quality of life for Hispanics throughout the country. NHCSL was founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3 with the mission to be the most effective voice for the more than 400 Hispanic legislators. For more information visit www.nhcsl.org.