Upward trajectory can be positive or negative depending on the subject. Rising unemployment is negative; rising employment — positive. Rising educational levels for Hispanics, for example from 4th grade levels in 1900 to almost 12 years in 2010 is a great positive. Rising employment and educational levels are great positives but what they fuel – political empowerment that comes with greater education and better macro-economics is of huge importance in the year upon us, 2013.
That effect was felt in the November election and in the new congress. Everyone in politics realizes that Hispanics have finally crossed the line into political Nirvana. One particular observer, Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle has put it best in a recent article.
His first sentence, “A record 31 Latinos will take their seats in Congress next year, with California sending nine, the most of any state.” His third sentence, “Latino political power changed, as one activist put it, “from potential to real” in the form of a record 10 percent of the electorate.” A few sentences later he writes these words that one does not see too often, “Even though Latinos voted 71 percent for President Obama, experts say it is possible for either party to capture the loyalty of the growing bloc of young Latino voters.”
53 million Latinos made up only 10 percent of all voters in 2012, however, the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center projects that Latinos will account for 40 percent of the growth in the eligible electorate in the United States by 2030, when 40 million will be eligible to vote. Political power flows to numbers and turnout. Hispanics will be much more powerful then than now and they were Obama’s key to 51% victory in November.
The key is that most of all Hispanics are under 18 years of age and they will turn 18 in huge numbers every day, week and month. They are better educated than their parents usually and are being educated even more as Hispanic college enrollment continues to increase. Example: In my first year at San Diego State there might have been 50 Hispanics out of a student body of 7,000. Hispanic enrollment numbers about 5,000 out of 25,000 now and is increasing annually.
Increasing college reflects many changing conditions. My family is representative of the Hispanic population’s changing character. My grandfather had a sixth grade education and spent his working life in construction. My mother had a Mexican 8th grade education and spent her life working in restaurants and civil service. My stepfather dropped out of school and received a GED in the Navy during WWII, he spent his career as a low level police officer who never made sergeant.
I graduated from high school – the first in the family to do so, and enrolled in college immediately setting an example for my three younger brothers that all graduated from high school and enrolled in college earning three bachelor’s and one Master’s degree.
Two nephews are University of California graduates and one niece just finished her first semester at Harvard; all this in one family. Multiply this by millions and one can easily see the future.
Congressmen of either party should look carefully at this new paradigm of Hispanic political power when they examine proposals that will start immigration reform. Some Hispanic groups are warning that they will monitor each congressman’s views and votes on immigration questions. Most of these groups are pushing complete immigration reform that includes paths to citizenship for all. These emotional groups want all or nothing; that is a disaster waiting to happen.
Obama did nothing to further immigration reform, nothing. His taste of halting deportations for two years of kids brought here illegally was a political move that doesn’t solve the problem by any measure.
President Bush tried the Comprehensive approach and Democratic Party senators including Barack Obama killed the proposal. They were joined by many of the groups that are now threatening to monitor congressmen because they wanted it all, or nothing. They got nothing.
What we have now is a newly empowered Hispanic population that doesn’t know what to do with it.
My suggestion is this: As no meaningful immigration reform can occur without Republican support, concentrate on Republican Representatives and Senators. Live with them, work with them and push for what can pass not the whole enchilada which cannot not pass. Protect the kids; pass work permits that allow going and coming. Next enable work permit holders to apply for “green cards” who have been in country for five or more years.
This strategic approach can work; the prize is there, but not in one huge bite. The citizenship question can wait. It would be better to live with 10 million legal workers than 10 million illegal workers.
Raoul Lowery Contreras (1941) was born in Mexico, raised in the USA. Former U.S. Marine, athlete, Dean’s List at San Diego State. Professional political consultant and California Republican Party official(1963-65)…Television news commentator, radio talk show host…published Op-Ed writer (1988 to present)…author of 13 books. His books are available on Amazon.com.