Panelists discuss Latino voter mobilization, immigration at Texas Tribune Festival

Graysen Golter and Areeba Amer

The Latinx community is becoming more politically involved during Donald Trump’s presidency, said Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy.

Reflecting on the 13% increase in Latinx voter turnout between 2014 and 2018, political leaders and activists discussed key issues related to Latinx voters and immigration in two panels at the Texas Tribune Festival Saturday. While one panel discussed Latinx voter mobilization in states such as Texas and California, the other addressed immigration policy facing the 2020 election.

María Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, said Texas must address several systemic issues that disenfranchise Latinx voters. She said the citizenship question should be removed from the census because it limits Latinx voter participation and access to vital resources.

“Our children are not counted in that census,” Kumar said. “When they get to school when they turn five … there’s not (going to) be a desk for them. They’re not (going to) have the resources they need to be successful.”

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said there was increased voter turnout from the Latinx community in light of President Donald Trump’s election and the passing of Texas Senate Bill 4, which bans sanctuary cities. He said the Democratic Party still needs to reach out and mobilize Latinx voters, who are often treated as a monolithic community despite varying backgrounds and values. 

“We haven’t done as much as a party and certainly not as elected officials,” Rodriguez said. “We have to invest (in mobilization) and really take the time to do that.”

At a different panel, Archila said the 2018 midterm election demonstrated minorities are able to change the makeup of Congress. However, political action is not the only way people are getting involved. 

“Latinos and everyone in this country … showed up to demonstrations because we are exposed to the ugliness and brutality of the administration,” Archila said. “People are not able to ignore it anymore.”

United States Rep. Sylvia Garcia, TX-29, said there has been an increase in people attending rallies in Houston.

“There was a massive amount of people marching in the rain against the detention,” Garcia said. “I think the next time it snows in Houston, we would even march in the snow.”

Garcia said people are getting more involved because they are upset by the treatment of immigrants and Trump’s actions. 

“It will help us (to) get people energized, organized (and) register(ed) to vote because quite frankly, if you want to get even, this is going to be your next shot at the next election,” Garcia said.

Panelists also discussed the 2020 Democratic candidates’ stances on immigration. After Julián Castro released a proposal to decriminalize immigrants near the border, some of the Democratic candidates released their own proposals. Some, such as Bernie Sanders, have yet to do so, said Laura Barrón-López, national political reporter at POLITICO.

Garcia said candidates should discuss immigration without fear of how it may impact their candidacy. 

“If (candidates) start focusing on taglines instead of doing the right thing, they are in the wrong business,” Garcia said. “We should embrace (the conversation about immigration) and work on it. That is who we are as a party.”