With California’s primary election less than a month away, Latinos Unidos por una Nueva America — or Latinos United for a New America (LUNA) — hosted a conference this weekend to mobilize Silicon Valley’s Latino voters this election season.
Latinos in Action 2020, an organized civic engagement project, seeks to build political power in the Latino community through inclusive engagement and by developing and promoting their priorities in the political arena, organizers said.
“We are here because it is a call to be counted, a call to be present and a call to be seen,” said Teresa Castellanos, a spokeswoman for Latinos in Action 2020.
During the conference on Saturday, the group unveiled its platform to raise awareness of the needs of the Latino community in an effort to gain support from allies and politicians.
The group’s platform covers eight topics that affect the Latino community in Silicon Valley, including working with elected officials to voice their needs, fighting to protect immigrant rights and improving education by making early learning and child care available to communities of color to close an achievement gap.
For some of the 136 attendees at the conference Saturday, comprehensive immigration reform was a top priority, including encouraging Latino voters to exercise their political rights.
“When I vote, I’m not only voting for myself,” said Hugo Marquez, a James Lick High School senior. “I’m voting to represent my parents, my sisters and the immigrant community.”
The conference also included a youth division, whose members encouraged training educators on dealing with trauma and mental health.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a high number of Latino residents face mental health issues due to fear of the immigration system. “I’m not scared, I’m even less scared when I see all these people here to say enough is enough,” said Salvador Bustamante, executive director of LUNA, in Spanish.
Housing was another major policy platform for the group. Organizers said Latino residents are increasingly facing homelessness or living on the streets. The group demanded elected officials advance housing policies for Latino families and other communities of color.
“It is unacceptable that our communities continue to be underrepresented, and that we are left with no resources because of this,” said Bustamante.
The conference also covered topics surrounding health and well-being, the justice system, economic development and cultural assets.
Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who attended the conference, said he’s looking to pass legislation that covers a lot of the issues discussed, including the justice system, workers’ rights and housing. The San Jose legislator also encouraged Latinos to vote because he said nothing is possible unless there is good representation — and that happens by voting.
“In Iowa, for the first time ever, they saw people of color rising up and showing up to these conferences,” he said. “At the caucus I attended, there were 185 people who showed up, around 180 of them were Latino. If they can show up in Iowa, we can show up in San Jose.”