EXCLUSIVE! Republicans Shun Latino Conference

When Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council for La Raza, was planning the group's annual conference in Washington, D.C., she asked President Obama—as well as each of the nine Republicans who have entered the 2012 presidential race—to come speak to the 2,000 or so mostly Latino attendees.

President Obama said yes. All nine Republican presidential candidates said no.

"To me, it reflects that we are not a priority," Murguía told Latina in an interview at the conference, which is one of the largest annual gatherings of Latinos in the country, and which began Saturday and ends tomorrow. "Even Republican political analysts have been saying that the next president needs to have 40% of the Latino vote to get elected, and yet there is this failure among Republicans to even be part of the conversation."

When President Obama addresses the conference today during the lunch session, Murguía hopes he will touch on issues ranging from the unemployment rate among Latinos to education—but especially on his plans for comprehensive immigration reform.

It was, of course, at NCLR's 2008 conference that President Obama publicly promised to deliver on immigration reform during his first year in office. More than two years later, Murguía notes, Latinos are still waiting.

"It's hard to see why, under his Administration, we are seeing higher levels of deportations than under President Bush," Murguía says.

Still, Murguía says it is a "significant honor" to have the President participate, noting: "It speaks to the growing relevance and power of our community."