The idea that left-leaning and conservative Latino groups could join together on immigration is over before it even started — after 24 hours of vehement, liberal opposition to the idea, both public and private.
A day after a BuzzFeed News story detailed preliminary conversations groups like NCLR and Latino Victory Project (LVP) have had with LIBRE Initiative executive director Daniel Garza on possibly finding common ground to push for an immigration overhaul, the Democratic-aligned fundraising group LVP released a statement saying it would not be able to work with the Koch-funded LIBRE.
"Latino Victory Project has no intentions of working with any organization on immigration reform that believes we should get rid of DACA or DAPA," Cristóbal Alex, the group's president said, referring to the 2012 and 2014 executive actions taken by the Obama administration, which shield young people brought to the country as children and parents of U.S. citizens from deportation, respectively.
LIBRE has sought to thread the needle on the issue: The group supports the 2012 program because it is already in place but does not support DAPA because it confers work visas without congressional approval and is held up in court.
"Unfortunately, despite Daniel Garza's claim that he would like to work with Latino Victory Project on this issue, LIBRE Initiative's stances on this issue are unacceptable and they do not represent the best interest of the Latino and immigrant communities. The fact is, LIBRE is trying to find their voice in this space because they know it is key to winning in November and are unable to do so based on the rhetoric they assert within our community," the LVP statement concluded.
Both NCLR and LVP had said there were some areas of alignment on immigration with LIBRE, despite wide disagreement on other issues like health care, the minimum wage, and voter ID laws, as they relate to Latinos. Both groups also made it clear that they were just discussions, with no partnership imminent, and LVP has been leading an effort to push back against LIBRE in those other areas.
But sources say posts on social media as well as private phone calls and emails made it clear that the idea of working with LIBRE was unacceptable to many Democrats, who view the group as a way for the billionaire Koch brothers to access the votes of the Latino community.
Complaints ranged from the idea that working with LIBRE is a trap that isn't actually going to move immigration legislation at all to a belief that a partnership would only help Republicans.
On Friday, when working with LIBRE was being discussed, a separate BuzzFeed News report found serious abuses of workers by employers who have H-2 visas. This was cited as another reason sources said Latino groups shouldn't work with LIBRE; Garza has spoken in support of employers in guest-worker programs.
The issue of working with LIBRE became so controversial Friday that Hector Sanchez, the chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 39 prominent Latino organizations, told BuzzFeed News he sent out an email saying he would not be working with the group after he received questions about it simply because the photo used in the story had him in it with Garza.
Simply put, Latino organizations on the left don't trust that LIBRE means what they say — a feeling Garza said is unreciprocated.
"I respect Janet Murguia, I respect the work of the Latino left organizations," he said, invoking the president of NCLR. "I know their motives are right, they don't think our motives are right."
He argued the fact that LVP had to distance itself from LIBRE is a reflection of where the left is.
"If you can't even reach consensus with an organization that agrees with you but is conservative, how are you going to reach consensus with Republicans?" he said. "Democrats don't get to decide what immigration reform is. Are you looking out for parties or for the community?"
That question, it seems, is where the potential for collaboration ends — liberals ask the same question about LIBRE.
Adrian Carrasquillo is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Adrian Carrasquillo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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