John Liu Finds Support Among Fellow Immigrants from Mexico

Mayoral candidate John Liu has been making inroads with Mexican voters. (Photo by Heather Martino/Voices of NY)

Call it the immigrant factor. Taiwan-born Democratic mayoral candidate John C. Liu seems to be making inroads with Mexican-Americans in the city who identify with his immigrant background.

“He will fight for the rights of all New Yorkers, not just the 1 percent of the population in the city,” said Mary Hernández, a spokeswoman for a group of Latino and Asian business entrepreneurs supporting the New York City Comptroller on his bid for City Hall.

“We are tired of 12 years of abuse and lack of opportunities for the minority community,” added Hernández, who also represents a group of Mexican businesses in East Harlem that has organized fundraising events for Liu.

Hernández says she shares Liu’s vision of advocating on behalf of minority communities, including the 320,000 New Yorkers of Mexican background. Poverty and public education are a big concern for this single mother. According to a recent study by the Community Service Society, nearly half of Mexican-American children in the city are growing up poor, and nearly half of the 16 to 19 year-old population is not in school or has not graduated from high school.

“Liu has strongly supported measures that would help minority families in need, such as an increase of the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9,” Hernández says.

In an interview with Diario de México USA Edition, Liu said as an immigrant who moved with his family from his native Taiwan at the age of five he has a strong connection with Mexicans and other minority groups.

“I understand what it means to be an immigrant,” he said. “My parents brought me here as many Mexicans came, too, for the same reason: They want to get a better life for our future generations.”

“The immigration system is broken,” Liu added. “I am in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. New York City is made by immigrants, and their contributions, work and effort is what built this great city.”

Liu’s campaign has been dogged by a 2009 fundraising probe that ended early this month with a guilty verdict for a former campaign treasurer and a campaign fundraiser. Liu has not been charged.

“For more than two years there has been an investigation about me, but there is nothing to hide or wrongdoing at all,” Liu said last March at a public meeting with the Mexican community held at an East Harlem Beauty Shop.

His supporters seem unfazed by the investigation. “Compared to the other candidates, Liu is the one that truly cares about reaching out to recent immigrants that may not have a traditional political voting power,” Norberta Díaz, a leader of the non for profit Asociación de Mujeres Poblanas de Brooklyn, said in a statement. “We are encouraging our children to support John Liu because he represents the American Dream, the dreams of our children to become the leaders of our community.”

Although there is a Latino candidate of Puerto Rican heritage, Adolfo Carrión, running on the Independent ticket, Díaz said the Mexican-American community identifies more with Liu.

“Carrión is a Latino like us, but I do not identify with his proposals,” she said. “I can’t even remember him doing anything for our community or advocating, as Liu has, for immigration reform.”

Manuel Guerrero, a businessman and long-time activist, said: “Carrión and Liu mean identity for our community: The first is a Latino whom we believe can do much more for us if he wins the mayoral election. At the same time, we identify with Liu as an immigrant, and the common roots we share with our similar stories of coming to America and trying to make a life here.”

Although he has been struggling in the polls – a May 22-24 Marist poll found only 8 percent of Democratic voters supported him – Liu boasted about his minority appeal when around 600 people gathered at the official kick off of his mayoral bid, on March 17, at the steps of City Hall.

This article was written as part of the Covering NYC: Political Reporting Fellowship of the Center for Community and Ethnic Media and funded by a grant from the Charles H. Revson Foundation. 



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