Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Gen-X kids of Central American immigrants look to increase political clout

Raul Claros is president and founder of the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles PAC.
Raul Claros is president and founder of the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles PAC.
Courtesy of Raul Claros

Despite its pan-Hispanic name, the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles PAC aims at increasing the local political power of Central American immigrants and their Generation X sons and daughters.

The group has endorsed Eric Garcetti for mayor; Garcetti's campaign sent out an e-mail blast announcing the endorsement last week. The coalition also endorses Ana E. Cubas, a naturalized Salvadoran immigrant, who is running for the City Council District 9 seat being vacated by Jan Perry. Cubas is a member of the group's advisory board.

The group coalesced in 2009 as Central American residents of the Pico-Union neighborhood tried to shrink boundaries that had been proposed for the expansion of Koreatown, coalition President Raul Claros said. The group then worked on the legislative redistricting, which re-drew political boundaries.

"That led us to form younger leadership," Claros said. "We have festivals, we have nonprofits, we have immigrant organizations, but we don't have anybody doing anything about politics."

The Central American community of Southern California had been supported with legal and social services by longstanding organizations such as Carecen and El Rescate, and the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles PAC was formed to promote Central Americans into positions of political clout, Claros said.

The coalition organizes fundraising events for its favored candidates, but attendees donate directly to those candidates, Claros said. The group filed with the IRS last year as a nonprofit political action committee.

Claros said Central American immigrants and their children — most of whom arrived in the 1970s or later to avoid civil wars and violence in their home countries — have different political issues from Mexican immigrants.

"It isn't until we have one of our own [in office] that we will have the accessibility to resources, whether it's funding for business and economic development projects or funding of our nonprofits," Claros said.

The Latino Coalition of Los Angeles PAC, which includes African-Americans and non-Central American Latinos as ex-officio members, has also endorsed Assemblyman Gil Cedillo for City Council, and Monica Garcia for reelection to the Los Angeles Unified School District board. The group is in favor of the public being able to choose between district-run schools and public-funded charter schools.

Claros, 31, is an at-large candidate for reelection to the Pico-Union Neighborhood Council.  He briefly ran for the  downtown 59th Assembly District, but abandoned the race in February before qualifying for the ballot.

He works as a substitute teacher at New Designs Charter School in South Los Angeles. He has also worked as an aide for Assemblyman Mike Davis.