WASHINGTON - Service Employees Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, a skilled organizer and one of the most influential Hispanic Americans in the labor movement, predicts Latino voters will have heightened activism in next year's election.
Medina's forecast was in a telephone press conference after a key win for Latinos on Nov. 8: Recall election ouster of Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce (R), author and instigator of that state's infamous anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic SB1070.
Pearce's law, now held up in federal courts, lets local law enforcement officials stop anyone they suspect of not being a legal resident and demand on-the-spot proof of residency. If it's not forthcoming, immediate arrest, detention and deportation follow.
But Pearce lost his seat to a moderate Republican, who campaigned against SB1070 and the racist image it gave to Arizona as part of his effort. SEIU, the Communications Workers, and the state AFL-CIO all aided the moderate, who beat Pearce in a strongly conservative suburban Phoenix district, 53-45 percent.
"It's important that Latinos turned out and made the critical difference" in a state senate district that is now 30 percent+ Latino, Medina said. "But their message is that [Pearce] has been recalled by all voters, including non-Latinos.
"And that's a big, big message to candidates in 2012," he said. It also applies to both the Republicans - who have adopted anti-Hispanic legislation - and to Democrats, who have not fought hard for immigration reform, Medina warned.
"If they believe an anti-immigrant message would lead them to victory, they need to heed the message of Mesa," where Pearce lost, Medina said.
But the heavy turnout in Mesa, and promises of future Latino mobilization next year, also means politicians ignore comprehensive immigration reform at their peril, too. That's because "Latinos listen, and they vote" and are now the largest minority group.
And they're disappointed by Democratic Party inaction on immigration, Medina said.
Latinos and their union allies aren't waiting until next year for the next mobilization against an anti-immigrant law. They're waiting until next week.
Alabama followed Arizona in passing, again at GOP and Right Wing behest, a harsh anti-immigrant law that also lets law enforcement stop anyone suspicious, among other things. That law, too, is held up in federal court. SEIU and other pro-Latino groups are organizing a Nov. 21 rally to start a campaign to overturn it. The event will be at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, a landmark of the civil rights movement.