If this last election taught us anything, it’s that Latinos cannot be ignored. They matter. As the fastest expanding minority group in the country, they have and will continue to have an important role in this country’s elections.
That means Republicans need Latinos. Democrats need Latinos. America needs Latinos.
And what is it that Latinos want? The same thing most Americans want: good paying jobs, an excellent and affordable education, and a chance to achieve the American dream.
It isn’t all about immigration reform, and yet, it is immigration reform that drove the conversation this past election and will continue to drive the conversation until reform is finally implemented.
No, most Latinos are NOT undocumented. But many Latinos do know someone who is undocumented, and almost all Latinos know what it means to be the subject of doubt, the one who is most likely to be pulled over and asked for proof of citizenship. They know what it means to be categorized as “illegal.” They know what it means to be hated simply for the color of their skin.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new concept in this country. Black Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans have and continue to feel the sting of racism, of doubt, of less-than full integration into a white-dominated culture.
But now, more than ever before, Latinos have at their fingertips the makings of a perfect storm. With Black Americans deserting the Republican Party, the GOP is struggling to find a way to hold on to this crucial minority, and they know immigration reform may be the only way to do so.
In the coming weeks, Arizonans will have an opportunity to be at the forefront of a major immigration reform movement. Business leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, and others will soon unveil a plan to move this state and this country forward. How Arizona’s politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, respond to this initiative will set the stage for the future of both parties.
It is an exciting time to be in Arizona. The world will be watching us. Let’s hope this time we find a way to crawl out from the ashes of embarrassment and rise above our racist image as a state ready to lead.