Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley addressed the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. and heavily focused on immigration and its impact on the economy.

From the National Council of La Raza's (NCLR) annual conference, O'Malley spoke about his family's journey, as immigrants from Ireland, noting his great grandfather had no money and lacked proficiency in English. He tied his family's history to the current debate on immigration.

The former Maryland governor mentioned his state's immigration progress -- not waiting for the federal government to act. O'Malley acknowledged Maryland's DREAM Act, which provided 36,000 undocumented immigrants access to higher education.

"After I signed the DREAM Act into law, our brothers and sisters in the Republican Party decide to petition it to a referendum," said O'Malley from Kansas City on Monday. "It was a straight yes or no vote -- we were losing our case in the polls. ... But we forged a new consensus, and we became the first state to defend the DREAM Act at the ballot box. ... We won with 59 percent percent of the vote.

"This was not simply a victory for the DREAMers' future. It was also a victory for Maryland's future," O'Malley said, adding the state also expanded driver's license access to immigrants.

On economic policies, O'Malley highlighted the surge of government contracts for Latino businesses in Maryland, which increased by 154 percent during his two terms in office. He also touted Maryland's minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour and tuition freezes.

O'Malley said, "This helped Hispanic students earn twice as many associate degrees and bachelor's degrees during my services as governor. We kept Maryland's unemployment rate among Hispanic workers down to one of the lowest in the nation. What does all of this mean? Anyone can talk about it, but we actually did it."

The governor is scheduled to attend an immigration roundtable discussion in New York on Tuesday, and here, according to O'Malley, will be the location where he will detail his immigration policy. O'Malley said it was the best interest to reform an immigration system that is "callous, irrational, inhuman and unjust and sells our nation short."

"Our fight for immigration reform is not only about our values as Americans. ... It is also about creating an economy that actually works again for all of us. It's about bringing our neighbors out of the shadow economy and into the light of an open and inclusive economy," said O'Malley, calling for wage increases for all Americans and that many Republican leaders will "vilify, scapegoat and seek every opportunity they can find to speak ill" of immigrants.

The governor also spoke about Puerto Rico's economic struggles. As Latin Post reported, the island has a debt problem of $70 billion. While using the term "Boricuas," the Democratic presidential candidate noted Puerto Ricans' economic and military contributions.

"We must not let their economy collapse," said O'Malley, while also referencing his calls to end "inequitable treatment" of Puerto Rico under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

He also touched on the deportations between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Dominican government will commence mass deportations of undocumented Haitians, even those born in the Dominican Republic. O'Malley said he has been the first and only presidential candidate to call on the U.S., the United Nations and allies to find a diplomatic solutions in what he called "an atrocious affront to human rights."

Must Read: Martin O'Malley's Education Plan Calls for Refinancing of Student Loans, Tuition Freeze at Public Colleges 


For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: