Nation’s Latino Leaders to Discuss Immigration, Other Issues in L.A.

Times Staff Writers

Latino leaders from throughout the country are scheduled to gather in Los Angeles next week to address pervasive gaps between whites and Latinos in critical areas, including income, home ownership, education and access to healthcare.

The National Latino Congreso -- billed as the first comprehensive gathering of Latino leaders and community members in nearly 30 years -- is to begin Wednesday and feature a rally and vigil Sept. 9 urging Congress to pass an immigration reform bill.

“We’re very concerned that Congress has basically frozen the process and not done anything about comprehensive reform,” said Angela Sanbrano, president of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities and one of the Congreso’s organizers.

“We’re calling on Congress to take up this issue seriously when they return from the Labor Day break,” she said.


The Congreso’s roots go back three years, to a study by the William C. Velasquez Institute that analyzed the progress of Latinos in closing the socioeconomic gap with whites after three decades of community organizing, said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the nonpartisan San Antonio-based think tank.

“The sad news is that the gap is as big as it was 30 years ago,” Gonzalez said.

But growth in the Latino population in America also means that “potentially we’ll be in the leadership at the highest levels in America and the most meaningful levels,” Gonzalez said. “And we’re not ready. We’ve got to be ready.”

Core Congreso organizers began meeting nearly a year ago; the result of their efforts is next week’s series of speeches and sessions designed to forge a plan of action to “get to these over-arching goals of change and leadership,” Gonzalez said.

“We want to discuss it with the country and the Latino community and non-Latinos,” he said, “to help this country.... We want to take our place in the leadership, and we’re going to. That’s going to have really positive implications.”

The Congreso, which will take place at the Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown, will devote a day to each of several issues: voting rights and election reform, social justice, the environment and immigrant rights.

Highlights among the 251 speeches are expected to include addresses by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Fabian Nunez, speaker of the state Assembly; and Phil Angelides, state treasurer.

The Sept. 9 rally closing the Congreso is planned for the Los Angeles State Historic Park east of Chinatown, also known as the Cornfield.


“We hope that this is a turning point in Latino politics and policy,” Gonzalez said.