I strongly believe that it is important for women to not only see other women involved in politics, but to see women in positions of power inside the government.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a front-runner presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. I was thrilled.
To add to my enthusiasm, Sen. Warren was energetic, genuine and grounded, which explains the support she has garnered, according to some recent polls showing her with 16% support nationwide and 18% in Iowa in this crowded field. I then looked up the number of Latino voters supporting Warren, which, at 5%, left me curious.
As a Latina that has lived in Iowa for nearly 20 years, I have watched the national attention Iowa gets during presidential elections. Most campaigns, Democrat and Republican, tend to concentrate their efforts on traditional voters, leaving their attention toward communities of color for last, which translates into lack of interest toward candidates.
According to Pew Research, the U.S Hispanic population reached 59.9 million in 2018, up from 47.8 million in 2008. A record 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote in 2020. In Iowa, Latinos are the largest minority, growing 136% between 2000 and 2018, according to the Iowa Data Center. Of the nearly 200,000 Latinos in Iowa, close to 65,000 are eligible voters. The Latino vote should never be taken for granted in Iowa or the nation.
So, connecting Latinos to a candidate’s plans is exciting to me, especially when those plans may have a positive impact in the community.
When it comes to what matters to Latinos, the fact that there are about 13 million undocumented people living in the country makes immigration a top issue.
When asked about her proposals to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, Warren said she wanted to implement “a pathway to citizenship.”
“This is not only about DACA recipients,” she said, “but for all people that came to this country to stay, to work, to study and that are part of our community — a path that is achievable, and fair.”
This plan will happen only with an act of Congress. Congress needs to be held accountable, she said. Warren wants to end the Senate filibuster, which has prevented the passage of important immigration legislation in the past.
“If you don’t get rid of the filibuster, it’s going to be almost impossible to get anything done,” Warren said, of the procedural tactic to delay a vote on legislation.
If undocumented immigrants had a pathway to secure legal status, they would likely earn more and, consequently, pay more in taxes.
The recent and unprecedented detention of immigrants fleeing violence in Latin America, specifically the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador), and the death of children in detention centers, is top of mind for me and many others in the Latino community.
A recent New York Times article detailed how private prisons have made immigration detention a significant part of their business. Private companies house about 9% of the nation’s total prison population, but some accounts show they are responsible for up to 73% of detained immigrants.
The Trump Administration is open about its desire to detain as many undocumented immigrants as it can, and these private prisons want to make sure that happens, spending millions on campaigns and lobbying efforts.
Warren said she was not financing her campaign with corporate donations and would not make them any promises.
“No one should make a profit from locking people up — no private prisons, no private detention centers,” Warren said. “And the best part of it is that you don’t need the Congress for that. A president can do that by herself, by taking an executive order.”
We had time to discuss one more issue during our conversation: the tension and division in the country in regards to race, discrimination against people of color, and more specifically, against Latinos.
This growing hateful sentiment has been promoted by the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
I shared our very own horrible experience in a Des Moines suburb when a white woman ran over a Latina teenager just because she “looked Mexican.” And let us never forget the Aug. 3 mass shooting last year at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed.
These terrifying attacks are becoming a common and unacceptable occurrence that keep many in constant fear.
Anti-Latino acts and hate crimes carried out by individual people are often closely connected to anti-immigrant policies and the broader public debate over immigration, according to Juan Cartagena, president of the civil rights group Latino Justice.
“We need to fight back against white nationalism,” Warren said. “It is a terrorist threat against the United States, just like foreign terrorism. It also creates more hatred and division in this country.”
“As president, I can speak out,” she continued. “I can use my voice and my platform to embrace everyone, to talk about the worth of every person. I can also put our Justice Department on enforcing the laws against white nationalism, investigating them and putting them in jail. And finally, I think this is a moment for people in this country to decide who we want to be. We don’t want to be a nation that closes down, that says others are not welcome. Immigration doesn’t make our country weaker, it makes our nation stronger, and as president I will embrace that.”
After our conversation, I can see that the senator’s plans for millions of Latinos align with our hopes for the future. However, the message of most candidates with great plans for Latinos, is not getting across.
It was a great honor to meet Sen. Warren and to learn that her plans positively impact and include us.
Campaigns and candidates must make the investment to communicate with Latinos if they want our support. We are not represented by any one person, so the campaign’s efforts must be broad and relational, not an afterthought — we can tell the difference.
Latinos want change desperately and will come out to vote for a candidate that is willing to fight for them and also willing to invest in connecting with them as they campaign across Iowa.
You can watch the full interview with Sen. Warren here.
By Claudia Thrane