By Randy Villegas
As I approach the first presidential election that I am allowed to vote in, I realize just how much the Latino vote — my vote — matters in this race. I am looking forward to casting my ballot.
From talking with my community here in South Kern, I know I’m not alone. Millions of younger Latinos, especially those born to undocumented parents, are feeling a greater responsibility to get involved in 2016, to take advantage of this opportunity that many don’t have.
Of course the issue that will drive many Latinos young and old to the polls is immigration. With the DACA expansion and DAPA still on hold, many Latino families are worried about their future. The question of a path towards residency or citizenship for undocumented immigrants keeps many families in a constant worried state.
While some Republicans like Donald Trump call for mass deportations, the Democratic side has taken much more favorable stances towards immigration reform.
Hillary Clinton says she wants to talk about the “good law abiding, productive members of the immigrant community, that I would like to see have a path to citizenship,” and Bernie Sanders says if elected, he would “sign comprehensive immigration reform into law to bring over 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows,” according to his website.
But I know from my community that Latinos often feel torn between the two party system in the United States. Although we want amnesty and citizenship for those who are undocumented, many feel strongly about issues like abortion and physician assisted euthanasia, preventing the Democratic platform from being a one-size-fits-all package. Since Latinos are predominantly Catholic, these core social conservative values tend to align with those of Republican candidates.
However, the GOP has basically shunned the majority of Latinos by their intolerant stance of immigration, essentially saying, “Vote for us and we’ll protect your religious values– but we may deport your family too.” And with on and off front-runner Donald Trump calling Mexicans criminals, drug lords, and rapists, the Republican party may not be getting much of the crucial Latino vote next year.
This is just one way in which the entrenched two party system tears not only Latinos, but all Americans, apart.
But as the hate from certain candidates begin to emerge, it only fuels the fire for Latino voters to register, and make their voices heard through their ballot.
Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said it best when responding to Ann Coulter, an outspoken anti-immigration figure. He told Coulter on an interview show that candidates like Trump are just “revving up Latino Registration machine.”
“Worry about the 50 million Latinos in the United States of America that are here legally,” he told Coulter, a Trump supporter. More than any election before, Latinos have the power to make a mark on the 2016 presidential race.
Why stop there though? We need to make sure that not only our federal and state governments are inclusive, but also our local representatives. Senator Jean Fuller, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, and Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, all Bakersfield Republicans, have each voted consistently against immigration reform measures, like providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants to make our roads safer. These are politicians utterly failing to represent the needs of their largely Latino constituents.
Latinos now know that we are the minority-majority and have the power to make our communities, state and nation thrive. So we should vote at our school board meetings, vote for our city councilmembers, vote for our assembly members, AND vote for our president. Most importantly, just vote! We have the power to be a coalition of voters that says that no human is illegal, and that immigrant rights are human rights.