Last week a delegation of Latino leaders that included LULAC, the Hispanic Federation, and LCLAA boarded a bus routed to Selma, Alabama in order to participate in the reenactment of the historic civil rights marches of 1965. The Latino delegation marched the historic journey for civil rights alongside civil rights leaders in Selma demanding the repeal of Alabama's anti-Latino legislation, HB 56. We followed a path blazed 47 years ago by the pioneers of our movement who risked their lives so that we could enjoy the promise of America.
The event known as "Bloody Sunday" was a historic event when 600 protesters were forced back by state troopers and local police with tear gas and clubs as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River into Montgomery. Due to the police force brutality, over 50 people were hospitalized on March 7, 1965. Although we have accomplished much in the last 47 years after "Bloody Sunday", the promise sought by the civil rights movement still eludes us. Racism and bigotry still threaten our civil rights and the fear of returning to the days of Jim Crow is all too real.
LULAC along with countless of other civil rights organizations recognized the Selma-to-Montgomery March as an opportunity to take a stand against the cowards that bully the underserved, minorities, and undocumented with bogus legislation. The groups of communities that these groups target often lack the voice necessary to say Ya Basta...enough is enough. That is why organizations like LULA are pivotal to bringing a voice to push back against divisive legislation that threatens a community's way of life. The march was also important because it provided an opportunity for all civil rights organizations and people from all ethnicities and races to unite under a common cause. United by a conscience of good will we marched arm in arm standing against the forces of racism and bigotry and united we will remain to realize the dream.
Alabama's anti-immigrant legislation, HB56, is the most racist anti-immigrant bill passed by any state in the union. The rationale for this oppressive legislation is an attempt to enforce the law. The reality, however, is that this legislation targets immigrants, minorities and underserved communities.
The Latino community is now 50.5 million strong in the U.S., according to recent Census numbers. Our growing population has extended to the labor force as well. Our purchasing power has also seen increases, as it's estimated that it will reach 1.2 trillion by 2012. Latino business owners are also expanding at more than twice the national average. And more than 6.6 million Latinos voted in last year's election and 12 million Latinos are expected to turn out this year.
We marched in Selma alongside our brothers and sisters because we are not only poised to play a decisive role in the upcoming 2012 elections we are also in the position to fight the injustices that plague our community today. Organizations like LULAC are helping to register and turnout a record number of Hispanic voters in November while, at the same time, states are attempting to pass legislation designed to suppress the vote. Latinos joined the march to show our unity as a community defying anyone to use anti-immigrant rhetoric or legislation to divide us. We stand firm today and grounded in the knowledge that we are a united community deserving of the opportunity to realize our dreams and the privilege to contribute to the greatness of this country.