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Latino Leaders Eye Redistricting Changes

Organizations from across the country have come together at the annual National Latino Congreso in Austin to strategize on legislation affecting the Latino community. And as Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports, all eyes are on redistricting this year.

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Organizations from across the country have come together at the fifth annual National Latino Congreso in Austin to strategize on legislation affecting the Latino community. And this year, it's all eyes on redistricting.

The conference, whose theme, "Fight Back, Fight For," refers to Latino efforts to block or push back against laws considered anti-immigrant and anti-Latino, comes amid the release of 2010 census data showing that the majority of people in Texas are minorities.

Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, which works to improve Latino political participation, said inadequate minority representation in government could be corrected through redistricting.

"Everybody just did incumbency protection in the 2000 census," Gonzalez said. "And I think that's far less likely in 2010 across the country, because certainly the ethnic minorities learned if you protect incumbency, you're basically losing the opportunity to gain representation for the minority communities."

Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News

Texas will get four new congressional seats thanks to its rapid population growth. Latino groups at the Congreso said the new census data strengthens claims that three of those seats should be drawn as majority-Latino districts. 

Lydia Camarillo, executive director of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, said there's also opportunity in the Texas House and Senate.

"We are really trying to make a point to make sure that Latinos and communities in this state are represented according to what the law says every 10 years," Camarillo said. "That means we will gain at least two new Senate seats that are drawn majority Latino and anywhere from four to eight House seats."

Camarillo said Latino groups are prepared to take their case for increased representation to the courts. If the Congreso gets its way, that could mean more races in 2012 in which non-Latino incumbents would run in districts with a majority-Latino population.

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