By Gabriel Salguero, El Diario / La Prensa, 17 October 2008. Translated from Spanish by Chris Brandt.
There is an apparent shift in the social agenda of Protestant and Evangelical Latinos in recent years. The Latino Leadership Circle, a group of progressive evangelicals to which I belong, recently stated: “Our political agenda includes a full moral range; poverty, immigration reform, the environment, education are all moral questions just as much as the questions of life and sexuality.” A new expression of Latino Evangelism transcends the liberal and conservative, Republican and Democratic labels. Latino Protestants demand that all the parties speak to the challenges and realities of Latino diversity.”
This week, several religious organizations presented the results of the National Survey on Latino Protestants: Immigration and the 2008 Elections, which reveals seismic changes among Latino Protestants. In 2004, close to 63 percent of Latino Protestants voted for President Bush. The current survey projects that 50.4 percent of them will vote for Senator Obama, 33.6 percent will vote for Senator McCain, with 10.4 percent as yet undecided.
Why this drastic change? Simply stated, a broader progressive agenda is becoming a growing prerogative among some Latino Protestants. Although many Latino Protestants still harbor a conservative social agenda, in this election year the economic crisis and immigration are matters that carry significant implications among this group of voters.
A preeminent concern will be that of immigration and the candidates' positions on this issue will have serious implications for the votes of Latino Protestants, of whom 80 percent identifies itself as Evangelical. According to the survey, 70.8 percent of Latino Protestants consider immigration reform to be an essential question. For this group of Protestants, the refusal to reform the present system is a moral and spiritual crisis.
In my conversations with Patty Kupfer of America's Voice, one of the organizations which sponsored the survey, she confirmed that many Latino Protestants, who make up part of the voting bloc that will determine the outcome of the elections in states like Florida and New Mexico, say that the candidates' positions on immigration is of the greatest importance. This is a challenge to both parties, Democratic and Republican, since 43 percent of Latino Protestants associate negative rhetoric about immigrants with both political parties.
Here is a prophetic warning for all candidates: You must not ignore the Latino reality and the voices of millions of men, women and children.
During the past few months the immigration reform issue has disappeared from the presidential dialogue. Ironically, during Hispanic Heritage Month [September 15 to October 15], Obama and McCain have spoken very little about the immigration crisis. To think that the emerging votes of Latino Protestants will go to a party that ignores the economic, social and migratory realities of their lives is to commit a major moral and political error.