NEW YORK–After a long silence from Andrew Cuomo regarding immigration in general and Latinos in particular, the Democratic candidate for governor is finally voicing his thoughts.
This Saturday morning, he met with ‘la crème de la crème’ of New York Hispanic elected officials at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in a closed-door meeting organized by the new co-chair of his campaign, U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.
“We talked about the disappointment that we have on how the campaign is in this moment,” Velázquez said in an interview with El Diario/La Prensa after the press conference that followed the hour-long meeting. “For the lack of Latino presence, the lack of outreach and the lack of engagement with the Latino community.”
But Velázquez said Cuomo is signaling a new commitment by bringing a senior staff level Latino to his campaign, by putting resources into Latino media to reach out to Spanish-speaking voters, and by standing up for immigrant issues like education, hate crimes, discrimination, housing, economic development and small businesses.
At the press conference, U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., former Bronx Borough President Fernando ‘Freddy’ Ferrer and State Senator José Peralta had warm words for Cuomo, saying he has always supported the Hispanic community by protecting immigrants and fighting for the poor.
“We know him, we like him, we trust him,” said Ferrer, who ran against Michael Bloomberg in the 2005 Mayor’s race.
They also pointed out how Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s “extreme positions” on immigration could have dangerous implications for the community, and how important it is for Hispanics to vote.
“Paladino does not equal Latino,” said Sen. Peralta.
After all the salutations, Cuomo thanked everyone for their support and made a commitment to work with Hispanic elected officials.
“Nosotros somos más que amigos, somos hermanos y hermanas, somos uno, somos uno, somos uno… (We are more than friends, we are brothers and sisters, we are one, we are one, we are one) and that’s what this campaign is all about,” he said, surprising the audience with his Spanish.[audio: cuomo_hispanos.mp3]
The candidate also pointed to Paladino’s right-wing position on undocumented immigrants, (Paladino told Newsweek there should be a public referendum on allowing police to use racial profiling when looking for undocumented immigrants) and said it wasn’t only a question of issues that distinguished the two men, but a question of character and principles.
When asked how he was planning to serve Latinos, Cuomo said it would be by “Making the public education system work, investing in small business, once again, affordable housing, affordable housing, affordable housing, jobs, community development.”
And immigration reform?
“Immigration reform I support, I always have,” he added.
Other Hispanic officials in attendance included Assemblyman Felix Ortiz; City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito; City Council Member Carmen Arroyo; City Council Member Julissa Ferreras; recently elected State Senator Gustavo Rivera; recently elected Assemblyman Francisco Moya; recently elected Assemblyman Guillermo Linares; recently elected Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez; and a number of other local Hispanic leaders.
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Feet in Two Worlds coverage of the New York Primary is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.