Now that Thanksgiving is over, Latinos, like many Americans, will head to the shops to take advantage of holiday deals at malls across the country. This stands in contrast with the many myths and mischaracterizations of our community. The Latino community’s contribution to the economy is often overlooked, particularly in the realm of politics. Already in this election cycle, we’ve heard our fair share of derogatory comments about Latinos – that we’re rapists, drug smugglers, criminals, or at bare minimum, that we’re takers looking for a handout. But this is far from the truth, on the contrary Latinos contribute heavily to the U.S. economy– to the tune of $1.5 trillion.
As a matter of fact, in 1990 the purchasing power of Latinos stood at $212 billion and fifteen years later, it has increased five-fold to $1.5 trillion. Latinos are consumers, entrepreneurs and job creators. Currently, there are 4 million Hispanic-owned businesses across the country that when combined contribute over $650 billion to the U.S. economy.
While some politicians claim that all we do is take, and that we are a drain on the economy, the numbers show that Latino-owned businesses employ over 2 million people.
One outstanding example is Nina G. Vaca, a Latina entrepreneur and business owner. Born to immigrant parents from Ecuador, Nina decided to start her own business at the age of 25. With just $300, Nina started the Pinnacle Group in her living room 19 years ago – an IT staffing company that specializes in payroll and professional staffing services to Fortune 500 companies. Nowadays, Pinnacle generates $650 million in revenues annually and employs over 5,000 people. This past year, Pinnacle was named the fastest-growing woman-owned firm in the country. Nina is only one of the countless Latinas making a contribution to the economy.
Despite the negative perception upheld and even propagated by some politicians about Latinos and our contributions to this country, the truth is that Latinos are a strong force that is helping keep our economy alive. Let’s not allow misinformation to plague the election season narrative and continue to hurt our community.
“Some People” by n.karim is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Next week, families and friends across the country will gather for a special celebration of thanks giving. Beyond the turkey or tamales or lechón and whatever succulent trimmings comprise your feast, next Thursday night will truly be about the warmth of having your mother’s embrace greet you at the door or laughing at an inside joke with your son or daughter. For millions of people living in the United States, however, Thanksgiving will come with a looming fear that came close to eradication one year ago today: the fear of losing their mother or father to a deportation order.
One year ago today, President Obama announced an Executive Action order that expanded DACA and created DAPA. The latter would offer deferred action for unauthorized immigrant parents of millions of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. However, just two months before the expanded DACA and DAPA application process began, a federal court in Texas—a state known for its conservative everything—issued a preliminary injunction thwarting the implementation. On November 9, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the injunction. Despite the benefits of implementing the Executive Action—wages would dramatically raise for all Americans by $124 billion over a decade and the U.S. GDP would increase by $230 billion—many on the conservative aisle still want to eliminate it.
One year ago today, millions of Americans were elated to give thanks because they would no longer be afraid of seeing their mother or father handcuffed and taken by black-clad ICE agents, as they surely have seen in more than a few testimonies shown on segments on weekend edition news shows. What was supposed to be an act of humanity to keep families together turned into a political theatre in the hands of conservatives. If these right-wing conservatives’ knee-jerk reaction to Latino issues stays its course, like in any other issue pertaining to the Latino community and other communities of color, they will end up losing a significant portion of Latino support where it will hurt them the most: their candidates’ votes.
Yesterday, the Center for American Progress released a report that indicates that the U.S. citizens who are related to people who are affected by DAPA will play a key role in the coming election years. The report found that in 2016, there will be 1.5 million DAPA-affected voters in the country. What does this mean? 1.5 million U.S. citizens related to residents that stand to benefit from DAPA implementation are eligible to head for the polls in 2016. This number is projected to increase as the citizens turn of voting age: 2.25 million in 2020 and 6.3 million in 2032. CAP notes that this electorate will monitor candidates’ stance on DAPA and immigration and will have a considerable impact on the election. If a candidate does not support issues that are important to Latinos, we do not vote for them.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign trail, several candidates have lashed out against DACA and DAPA, and some even showcase mass deportation as a key component in their platforms. Candidates like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are at the top of the list. That they would rather see American families separated and spread xenophobic rhetoric than have a meaningful discussion on immigration is shameful. They have set themselves up to lose the majority of the Latino vote.
Thanksgiving, one of the most cherished holidays in the United States, commemorates the kindness and hospitality bestowed upon an immigrant group from Europe by the Native Americans who helped them survive in a foreign land. It is unreal and unjust that next week, when many will rejoice in this holiday, others will still have the unnerving fear of having their loved ones sent away, devoid of the very hospitality that launched this thanks giving celebration.
If you grew up in a Mexican family, you may remember that the butter container did not always contain butter and that the Danish cookies tin was sometimes full of buttons and threads. Chances are, you may have a recollection of a childhood disillusionment upon finding out that the Lala yogurt plastic container that promised creamy strawberry bliss contained salsa verde or cold refried beans. And drinking out of a glass that remarkably resembled the shape of the Mole Doña María container—without the yellow label promising authentic mole—was the norm. We used colorful woven reusable bags for grocery shopping instead of plastic bags, and when we started using plastic bags, we reused them as trash bags or for storage. We didn’t waste anything. And if Internet memes and blogs and culture articles that highlight commonalities about growing up Latino have taught us anything, it is that this occurrence was and continues to be a common practice for many Latino families. We have been recycling since before it was the “in” thing to do, before the PSAs and digital campaigns.
Over the past few decades, Latinos’ interest in environmental issues has been transformed from a daily practice at home into an active political force. We want a clean, healthy environment for our families and our children, and we will hold legislators and candidates accountable if they do not support these issues, make no mistake.
Currently, Congress is debating on whether or not to block the Clean Power Plan, which sets national limits on carbon pollution. The Clean Power Plan is actually under attack by certain Members of Congress, and in doing so, these representatives demonstrate that they would rather choose special interests over the health and well-being of our communities.
A recent poll conducted by Latino Decisions in conjunction with Earth Justice and Green Latinos indicates that among registered Latino voters, conservation, the environment and climate change impact are top priorities. The results are astounding but not surprising and should not be ignored by current legislators and candidates, particularly, those in the 2016 elections.
For instance, candidates should be aware that 85 percent of Latinos polled believe it is extremely important or very important to reduce smog and air pollution. Considering that Latinos are more likely to be affected by air pollution and therefore stand to be at higher risk of contracting respiratory illnesses (source), it makes sense that Latinos would be in favor of protecting their health and ultimately, their lives and the lives of their families
The poll also shows that eighty-six percent of Latinos support increased conservation of water and 79 percent believe it is important or extremely important to protect our nation’s wildlife, public lands and endangered species. On the climate change front, which is classified as a “hoax” or at the very least dismissed by many right-wing conservatives, 78 percent of Latinos polled support state clean energy standards to prevent global warming and climate change, and 66 percent believe global warming and climate change are mostly caused by human activities. Finally, of note, 59 percent of Latinos believe that enacting stronger environmental laws would improve economic growth and create new jobs. In addition, the poll also revealed that 90 percent of Latinos said they support the Clean Water Act, which protects our waterways and clean drinking water, and 90 percent also support the Clean Power Plan, which sets national limits on carbon pollution. The Clean Power Plan is actually under attack by conservative Republicans, and in doing so, demonstrate that they would rather choose special interests over the health and well-being of Latinos, who are affected the most by air pollution.
Latinos stand to make a difference in the 2016 elections. Many victories across the nation and up and down the ballot will be determined by the Latino vote. The Latino Decisions poll that shows an overwhelming Latino support for a clean and safe environment was conducted on registered voters. They are heading to the polls come 2016. Supporting measures that will help keep our waters clean and our air safe enough to breathe stands right next to immigration, economic growth and education in the list of issues Latinos will consider when darkening that bubble next to the candidate names. And while we may still be using reusable bags and keeping left-over guisado in Cool Whip containers, this time around, Latinos are also making a political impact in conservation.