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Hispanics Seeking United Voice in 1992

September 26, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hispanic leaders are planning ways to present a united political voice in the 1992 presidential election.

About 100 Hispanic leaders met Tuesday and resolved not to let divisions within the community sap their political strength, as some say occurred during the presidential campaign two years ago.

Led by former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros; Bronx, N.Y., Borough President Fernando Ferrer; and Denver Mayor Federico Pena, the leaders adopted a blueprint for 1992 and took stands on five pressing Hispanic issues.

The leaders plan to establish the National Hispanic Agenda as an organization that can speak on political issues all Hispanics share.

″It represents an attempt to speak with one voice across the differences that divide the Hispanic community - Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Republicans, Democrats, New Yorkers, Floridians, Texans, Californians,″ Cisneros said.

As a first step, the leaders urged an adjustment of the 1990 census that appears to have undercounted minorities. They also pressed for passage of the civil rights bill and repeal of the employer sanctions provision in the 1986 immigration law.

″The Hispanic subgroups are now agreeing and supporting issues in a real call for unity,″ said Robert Calderin, director of a conference of New York legislators called Somos Uno, Spanish for ″We Are One.″

″It’s the first time we have had a cohesive group of people working together,″ said David Pena, a Miami attorney who attended the meeting on behalf of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

″Our hope is to develop a shared agenda and be united,″ said Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza, a Washington-based research and advocacy group.

Hispanic leaders want to make sure their political potential is not squandered in 1992, Cisneros said.

″This is the starting of a process that leads to a 1992 policy statement that is useful in the presidential election ... and that has come from a deliberate and systematic dialogue with community organizations all around the country,″ he said.

At 21 million, Hispanics comprise the fastest-growing minority group in the country. Demographers estimate Hispanics will become the largest minority population sometime this decade.

The 100 Hispanic leaders at the National Hispanic Agenda meeting represented Republicans and Democrats and groups as varied as the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Catholic Conference.

The leaders praised President Bush’s executive order, signed Monday, setting up an advisory committee to develop ways to improve education of Hispanics. But they said Bush should make sure young Spanish-speaking children are able to learn in their native language.

The leaders also urged Congress to pass legislation giving a statehood plebiscite, or vote, to Puerto Rico and allow Puerto Ricans in the continental United States to participate. Polls indicate a slight majority of Puerto Ricans favor statehood.

Bush, who backs statehood for Puerto Rico, has urged Congress to pass legislation mandating that whatever Puerto Ricans decide be implemented by 1993. A bill allowing the plebiscite is pending on the House floor, but a similar Senate measure is mired in committee.

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