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Democrats woo Hispanics on immigration

Reuters | September 10, 2007
John Whitesides

Hillary Clinton and other Democratic presidential hopefuls wooed Hispanic voters on Sunday with pledges to back a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and attacks on Republican "demagoguery" on the issue of immigration.

All the 2008 Democratic presidential contenders at a debate broadcast in Spanish on Univision, the country's largest Spanish-language television network, said they would push quickly once in the White House for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.

Most of the candidates condemned what they said were Republican efforts to demonize illegal immigrants and use the issue of immigration to divide Americans.

"It is being demagogued and I believe it is being used to bash immigrants and that must stop," Clinton, a New York senator, said of the debate on how to handle the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who would be the first Hispanic U.S. president, said, "I object to the dehumanizing of people that want to be part of the American dream."

He and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd are the two fluent Spanish speakers in the Democratic field.

"The politics of fear are the most dangerous politics in our country, and those people who deal with fear and frighten the American people on this issue ought to be dealt with accordingly," Dodd said at the University of Miami debate, billed as a discussion of issues crucial to Hispanic voters.

Hispanics are the country's biggest and fastest-growing minority group, accounting for about 15 percent of the population and at least 14 million potential voters in 2008.

President George W. Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, but Democrats see a growing opportunity to win over Hispanics alienated by the hard-line Republican stance on immigration.

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