Latino voters need more than lip service on immigration reform, healthcare and climate change from the field of candidates running for president in 2016, says Dolores Huerta, renowned workers' and civil rights activist. Huerta, who had been at the vanguard of the Latino and immigrant rights movement with contemporaries like Cesar Chavez, said Latinos in the U.S. are poised to play a larger role in the electorate.
"I believe the Latino community can be the deciders and we saw that happen in the 2008 election and the 2012 election," Huerta said in an interview with the Latin Post, referring to the growing rate of Latino eligible voters in states where Hispanics have outpaced all other ethnic groups. "We are so many voters at this point in time, even in many states where we have small percentages, like in the state of Virginia," she said.
Huerta, 85, is regarded as one of the country's greatest advocates for migrant workers, immigrants and Latinas. She built that reputation during her tenure at the Agricultural Workers Association and the United Farm Workers, which she co-founded with the late Chavez.
The next commander-in-chief should be someone who will fight for the issues the Latino community cares about in 2016, Huerta told the Latin Post. "The majority of the Latino population are working people, and we need somebody that is going to fight for the working people. It's not a question of your surname or the language that you can speak; it's a question about what values you hold."
Huerta has previously endorsed Democratic presidential nomination front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but said her the support is not solely based on gender. "[Clinton] is a strong woman," Huerta said. "She has the experience [and] she's been connected with the Latina community for many decades -- even before she was the secretary of state or when she ran for the presidency the first time."
Speaking about the Republican presidential candidates, Huerta criticized Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for initially supporting comprehensive immigration reform but then "step[ing] out of the picture," only to re-emerge as a critic when President Barack Obama issued his executive action on immigration.
"I think that [Rubio] is a person we cannot trust because I think he's an opportunist and he's going to say what he needs to say just to get himself elected," Huerta said. "He speaks out of both sides of his mouth ... first he said he was for immigration reform and then he didn't support President Obama's executive order, which would have brought tremendous relief to many working people."
Huerta said former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has gone back and forth on the issue too. "Our people need somebody that is going to stand up there for them and fight for them for immigration reform, for better health care, for jobs, [and] for the minimum wage."