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‘Tequila Party’ Rallies Hispanics

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Rep. Lamar Smith offered a bill Tuesday to require businesses to check the citizenship of new hires. Tequila Party organizers plan protests against it.

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"We're the new blood," Blase said. "I think it's imperative for us to make voting sexy to the up-and-coming age of voters. ... The youth think [the name] is cool. In their minds, they think tequila is stronger than tea."

She distinguished her efforts from those of traditional advocacy groups such as the National Council of La Raza, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and League of United Latin American Citizens.

"I appreciate what they have done, but the people that are running those organization are like my mom and dad the older generation," she said.

The suspicion appears to be mutual. Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he worries the Tequila Party may be out to undermine the Hispanic vote.

"I'm suspicious that the whole thing is designed to make the Latino vote less relevant," Wilkes said.

He cited a Republican ad that ran in Nevada during the midterm elections, which called on Hispanics to stay home on Election Day to protest lack of legislative action on immigration reform.

But it was the Republican group Latinos for Reform, not the Tequila Party, behind that campaign.

Angela M. Kelley, vice president for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the liberal Center for American Progress, said she expects more conservatives to distance themselves from the GOP as its members roll out enforcement measures led by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith.

The Texas Republican introduced a bill Tuesday that would require companies to check the legal status of new hires against a central database. Groups opposed to it say it could be costly to businesses and unfairly target ethnic minorities.

"There are a lot of conservative Hispanics who also find this offensive. They realize they're going to be bearing the brunt of these kind of programs," Kelley said.

The Tequila Party already has plans to hold nationwide protests against Smith's E-Verify bill.

"The Republican Party, if they continue to do what they are doing now, they're going to lose a generation like the Democrats did in the South during the civil rights era," Blase said.

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