The Democratic National Convention featured not only a slate of the party’s heavyweights, but also several prominent Republicans. Missing from the lineup? Prominent progressive Latinos.
Julián Castro, the only Latino to run for president in 2020 and who delivered a keynote speech at the 2012 convention, wasn’t given any speaking time. And don’t tell me that giving Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising superstar and arguably the most effective political communicator, about 90 seconds of airtime was enough. She had less time to speak than a former Republican governor who got nearly 4 minutes. The two other Latino politicians who had major speaking slots — Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada — were moderates with lower profiles.
Rather than growing the electorate, which is how Democrats will win in November and beyond, it seems as though they are reaching out to Republican voters. This sends a terrible message to the Latino voters they need to win in November.
There are a record-breaking 23 million naturalized citizens eligible to vote this November, 34 percent of whom are Latino. I became a citizen last year, and I will be voting for the first time in a presidential election this November after many years of being undocumented. Yet, Joe Biden continues to have an enthusiasm problem with Latinos. A PBS NewsHour-NPR-Marist poll showed Mr. Biden underperforming: Only 59 percent of Latinos said they’d vote for him over Donald Trump, compared with the 66 percent who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
According to EquisLabs, a group that studies the Latino electorate, for Mr. Biden to beat Donald Trump, he needs sky high turnout for Latinx voters. The group predicts that 57 percent of Latino eligible voters in battleground states could sit out of the 2020 elections.
The Biden campaign has tried to close its Latino enthusiasm gap by releasing a policy plan to address economic inequality and empower Latinos. The plan includes a commitment to ensuring that immigrants have access to free Covid-19 testing, treatment and an eventual vaccine. It also includes a reinstatement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and limiting the use of programs that force local law enforcement to take on the role of immigration enforcement.
But, there’s much that is lacking. One glaring omission is Medicare for All. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fact that millions of immigrants live without health insurance and have suffered disproportionately in recent months. Access to affordable health care was a top issue for Latinx voters who sided with Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Mr. Biden has refused to endorse Medicare for All — a popular solution to our nation’s health care catastrophe that would serve all people, including undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Biden isn’t doing enough to move the people he needs to persuade to vote for him. Just a few weeks ago, 90 field organizers for the Florida Democratic Party signed an internal letter saying the Biden campaign has no “fully actionable field plan,” and is “suppressing the Hispanic vote” in Central Florida. These are significant missteps that the Biden campaign should fix quickly.
Mr. Biden should be giving frequent speeches, releasing weekly ads on TV and radio and sharing regular social media content aimed at immigrants and Latinx communities. He must address our pain and suffering. We’ve had to endure Donald Trump throwing children in cages, trying to dismantle DACA, separating our families, terrorizing our communities with immigration enforcement agents and treating immigrant workers as disposable during the pandemic.
But we don’t want watered down deportation policies. We want him to stop deportations in his first 100 days and eliminate for-profit detention facilities. We want the Biden administration to push Congress to defund ICE and C.B.P. We want him to reunite families that have been separated by wrongful deportations and asylum denials. Protecting DACA is the floor, not the ceiling.
After all, the immigrant justice movement has turned public opinion against Donald Trump’s deportation force. More Americans today than ever before dislike ICE. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey found ICE was the only agency asked about in the survey viewed more negatively (54 percent) than positively (42 percent). Only 19 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners view the agency favorably.
Electoral coalitions are about addition, not subtraction. The math is straightforward. Mr. Biden can persuade a larger number of voters by making it clear that, if elected, immigrants will have reason to be optimistic about the future, despite the horrors of the present.
This pro-immigrant version of Mr. Biden has yet to emerge. The best time for that version to arrive is right now. It would make Mr. Biden a much more compelling presidential candidate, one who could drive an enormous number of voters to the polls and defeat Donald Trump in a landslide — and enable us to rebuild the country from the ground up.
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