Hispanic community leaders on Thursday launched an "unprecedented" national campaign to register 200,000 Latino voters and mobilize some 100,000 to go to the polls in November, motivated to do so - activists say - by conservative anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The Latinos for Democracy campaign is part of the Movimiento Hispano that includes efforts against the suppression of the minority vote, education about the most pressing issues in the community and integration programs for immigrants.
The effort to mobilize voters, announced at a press conference, is the fruit of cooperation among the Hispanic Federation, the Labor Council for Latin America Advancement, or LCLAA, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, known as LULAC.
The goal of the three organizations is to take advantage of the broad network of community resources that are available to mobilize every Hispanic eligible to vote.
The incendiary rhetoric of the Republicans and conservative groups against legalizing undocumented immigrants will only serve as an incentive for Latinos to go to the polls on Nov. 6, the activists say.
"The Republican extremism is unacceptable. They have to have practical proposals that benefit the country and not an extremist rhetoric that is creating hatred against the Latino community and an environment where crimes motivated by hatred against Latinos are increasing," LCLAA executive director Hector Sanchez told Efe.
"With the community under attack, the vote is one of our best weapons of defense," Sanchez emphasized.
On Wednesday night, during the Republican presidential debate in Arizona, Mitt Romney said that the state's SB 1070 law, which aims to criminalize undocumented immigrants, is a "model" for other state fighting against illegal immigration.
Romney's comment earned on Thursday the condemnation of activists defending immigrants, given that for some time they have criticized the rhetoric of the Massachusetts ex-governor and the other Republican candidates against immigration reform.
In Arizona, which is shaping up to be one of the key states in the upcoming election, the number of Hispanics increased 46.2 percent between 2000 and 2010 and they make up 29.6 percent of the state's population.
Latino voters, many of whom have a relative or know someone who is undocumented, will make the Republicans pay at the polls for opposing immigration reform, activists say.
Francisco Heredia, the director in Arizona of Mi Familia Vota (My Family Votes), said that the political scenario has changed in the state thanks to the "incredible potential" of Hispanic voters.
"The politicians who ignore or marginalize this electoral bloc during the primaries will pay the consequences in November, while Latino voters continue to involve themselves more than more in the democratic process," he added.