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Transcript

1A Across America Town Hall with Houston Public Media


April 9, 2019
Houston, Texas

On April 9, 2019, 1A hosted a town hall in partnership with Houston Public Media to
explore the issues driving Latino voters to the polls. 1A host Joshua Johnson was in
Houston's East End at Talento Bilingüe de Houston to learn more from the audience
and guests including Lina Hidalgo, Harris County Judge; Jacob Monty, immigration
attorney, member of Hispanic Republicans of Texas; Angelica Razo, Houston Area
Coordinator for Mi Familia Vota; and Jerónimo Cortina, associate professor and
Associate Director of the Center Mexican American Studies at the University of
Houston.

Joshua: Let's dive in. Again, we want to hear from you, especially because we know
there are going to be a lot of pundits and experts who are going to be kind of wondering
what Latinos are thinking in 2020. We figured we'd just ask a year early, and let you
speak for yourselves. Once study from UCLA found that the number of Latinos who
voted in the 2014 midterms doubled by the 2018 midterms. So, there's a lot more
engagement going on. But voting isn't the only way to be engaged, and we'll talk more
about voting in just a minute. One way to be engaged is to run for office yourself and
last week we spoke to congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, she's a Democrat and one of
Houston’s newest representatives, about her experiences voting here in Texas. She
had a lot of stories to tell including this one, about when she tried to vote in 2015.
Listen.

Rep. Garcia: I mean I remember even as a state senator, in my own neighborhood


going to vote in the runoff election for Mayor [Sylvester] Turner and when I arrived they
checked the book, and they told me I wasn’t a registered voter — that I couldn’t vote.
And I was just, of course, astounded, and said, “Well no, wait a minute.” And I
remember telling them, “I usually don’t go around, throwing my weight around, but you
do realize I’m the state senator in this area,” because I didn’t recognize the first young
woman who talked to me. She says, “Well ma’am I need to see your ID,” so I showed
her my ID and then I showed her my senate ID. Then she says, “Well ma’am, your
name’s not on here.” So she kept looking and looking and then she told me, “Sorry, you
can’t vote.” But for me knowing the rules and knowing what I could do, I asked for a
provisional vote, provisional application then. I would have just given up. I would have
just said, “Oh okay,” and left. So no telling how often that happens. And no telling
whether that person ever comes back to vote.

Joshua: That's Democratic congresswoman Sylvia Garcia from Houston, now there are
a lot of other ways to engage. I mean what if you can't vote? What if you're not old
enough? What if you are not yet a citizen? There are other ways to improve your
community and tonight we're here to talk not just about voting and activism but all the
different ways to engage with your community. So, we want to know things like are you
planning to vote in 2019 or 2020? If you are, why? If not, why not? What are some of
the issues you want to vote on? Are you politically engaged? Are you civically active?
What engages you? What turns you off from being engaged in politics at any level?
What are some of the things in your neighborhood where you live that you think need to
change, that you wish that more politicians and the media paid more attention to? What
are we getting right? What are we getting wrong? What’s the one thing you wish the
country knew about you and your issues and what matters to you that never seems to
get discussed. Those are the kind of things we want to hear about tonight. We have a
great panel this evening to help us discuss it and I will introduce them now. Joining us
right to my right is Lina Hidalgo, Harris County Judge. She is newly elected as Harris
County Judge, the top county official in Harris County. Judge Hidalgo, welcome to the
program.

Judge Hidalgo: Happy to be here.

Joshua: Also, with us is immigration attorney Jacob Monty, he's a member of the
political action committee Hispanic Republicans of Texas and is a former advisor to the
Trump campaign, Jacob, welcome.

Joshua: Next to him is Angelica Razo, the Houston Area Coordinator for Mi Familia
Vota, a nonpartisan organization that's focused on encouraging civic engagement.
Angie, welcome to the program.

Razo: Thank you.


Joshua: And Jerónimo Cortina is an associate professor of political science and the
Associate Director for the Center of Mexican American Studies at the University of
Houston. Professor Cortina, glad to have you with us.

Professor Cortina: Thank you.

Joshua: Remember to use your comment cards if you’ve got something you have to
share, we'll collect it. Check the box if you'd like to read it on mic and then we'll get you
into the conversation as quickly as possible. I want to start with a question for everyone
on the panel about the way that Latino voters are viewed today. What is the one thing
that you find people think they know about Latino voters in general, but they really
don't? What's the one thing that tends to be misconstrued, that is a misconception, or
that is just flat out false? Judge Hidalgo?

Judge Hidalgo: I can take that one. So, I think for Latino voters in general but even
perhaps young voters and others who don't vote to that rate as other folks, there's this
assumption, I think, that these communities are just apathetic, that that's why they don't
participate. And I've seen and I think a lot of us saw, especially after the 2018 elections,
that a lot of those communities and our Latino community has not chosen to be
apathetic they just haven't been welcomed in, there hasn't been an opportunity for them
to see the direct relationship between their vote and policy, for them to have access to
the vote and to participation. And now that we're beginning to see that and that those
openings are beginning to appear, folks are excited and excited to participate. As an
example, we had this record turnout, we did after the election an open transition
process, we wanted to see if the community would stay involved — after the voting in
record numbers, would they then come out and participate in their government? And so
we launched a seven-week long program all across Harris County where we held these
town halls, asking people, "Okay we're designing our policies for the next four years,
largest county in Texas, what do you want to see?" We didn't know, sometimes you
plan a party and nobody comes, we didn't know what would happen, we had anywhere
from 200 to 600 people show up, speaking all languages, huge turnout of the Latino
community, and that just showed to me if we make those opportunities available people
will be there and it's not apathy it's a lack of engagement on the part of the government.

Joshua: Jacob Monty, what about you? What's the one thing that you find people think
they know about Latino voters but they really don't?
Jacob Monty: Well I'll speak to the Republicans out there that believe Latinos should not
care about immigration because they're legal, why should they care about immigration?
The problem I see is that if you're a Latino, even though you're able to work and live in
the U.S. when you hear rhetoric against immigrants, you think, "Hey, they could be
talking about me or they could be talking about my family member who might be
undocumented.” So I think many Republicans when they start bashing immigrants or
talking bad about immigrants, they don't realize that it impacts legal Latinos who are
turned off by that rhetoric, and who might otherwise consider voting Republican but
when they hear that from Republicans, they either don't vote or they vote Democrat.

Joshua: Angie?

Angie Razo: Yeah definitely. I think there's a narrative out there that we all vote the
same and for the same reasons and I think that’s dangerous because it takes away the
stories of why people are voting, why they’re getting engaged, why they want to see
new leadership in elected positions. And it's — and I think we’re a diverse community
amongst the Latino community and I don't want this narrative to be continued that we're
an easy catch, that we can be easily misinformed, or we just have to construe a story
that’s going to seem pretty to us and that's what's going to get our vote out there. That's
not true, I think when you are following that rhetoric, that means that candidates, elected
officials, don't really want to take the time to get to know our community and understand
why we want to be present and why we want our voices heard.

Joshua: Professor?

Professor Cortina: Well I think one of the misconceptions about the Latino vote is that it
is a homogeneous block. That Latino is something that votes en mass for a particular
candidate, and that is wrong because the Latino vote is more than that. The Latino vote,
when you talk about the Latino vote, you have to think about that there's going to be at
least four types of electorate, right. You're going to have people that are registered but
do not vote, people that are registered and vote, and people that could be registered
and are not registered, and obviously, people that cannot be registered because of age
or any other status issue. So, when you're talking about these, what Judge Hidalgo was
mentioning, it's very important how political parties, at the beginning not government
officials, but how political parties engage Latino voters, is going to be very, very
important. Because perhaps part of this electorate — and when we talk about
demographics we’re going to see that there’s going to be a very important change,
perhaps they have not been politically socialized into the American political system, that
by definition is very, very different than what "Latino" voters may be used to.

Joshua: Judge Hidalgo, let me talk to you for a second particularly about becoming the
county judge, what inspired you to run for county judge?

Judge Hidalgo: So, I'm one of the hundreds of women across the country that had never
thought I would run for office. I was shocked at the divisiveness — it was mentioned
earlier — the divisiveness we were seeing, I was taken aback by some of the attacks on
our communities, on the press in particular. And I decided, I know what issues my
community is facing, I’ve worked with families of folks who had died in our county jail, I
worked throughout our public hospital system and seen what a lack of healthcare
access in Texas can do, and I've lived here and seen what was, by then, two 500-year
floods in two years — this was before Harvey — so I figured someone needs to step up.
We're getting too record divisiveness in this country. I'm grateful to my community and
my country, I want to give back to my country so why not? Why not run? I stepped up,
turned out I was one of many, and one of many people who stepped up in different
ways. For me it was throwing my hat in the ring and running for office, for other people it
was volunteering for the first time, it was voting for the first time, and here we are.

Joshua: Was there a moment where you made the decision, was there a last straw for
you, where you said, "That's it, I'm going to run"?

Judge Hidalgo: So that's actually a funny story, I was at the [Harvard] Kennedy School,
at the time I was studying my master's in public policy, and there was a panel of young,
elected officials. There was a young mayor, a young state representative, and I looked
at them and I’d been thinking, "What can I do to give back, give back politically?" and I
think seeing that example was what helped me decide, “Well this is what I want to do,
why not?” And that's why I think having an example — it all feeds into each other, if we
have more communities vote, then different communities and diverse folks will win as
well, which will then inspire other generations to get engaged, and so I'm so committed
to being out there, to helping inspire new generations, different people to get involved in
our political process. It really starts with every one of us.
Joshua: Professor Cortina, what do we know about the numbers of Latino voters? We
often hear that this demographic votes less often than other demographics, is less
politically engaged, what do the statistics show us? Is that true?

Professor Cortina: Well, it is true, unfortunately. Latinos are the group, or the
demographic group, that votes at the lowest rates in comparison with other
demographics in the country, in the state, in the city, everywhere. And perhaps many of
the reasons why is, well, first of all, this issue of political socialization in terms of how to
understand the system, how to participate on the one hand. The other issue is lack of
enthusiasm in particular races, however, 2018, we saw completely different things at
least here in Texas, a completely different turnout in terms of the composition of the
electorate, and the reasons of why they were participating in the election. Another
important point that I think is very important to highlight is that it needs to be a
connection between my vote and the policy outcome that that vote is going to have. If I
vote for a particular candidate, but later I don't see that my needs, wants, preferences,
whatever it is, are not materialized in public policy, then I become a little bit
disinterested, maybe turned off and say, "Why am I voting if my vote doesn't have a real
impact?" I understand that the probability that my vote is going to have a significant
impact on an election is zero, however, it's very important, that connection. And the
other part that I was mentioning is that political parties need to start paying attention.
Both political parties need to start paying attention to Latino voters. And here you enter
into a Catch-22 situation. The first one is if you're a political party and let's say you
invest a dollar on getting the vote efforts, you want to see that dollar that is going to be a
return on a vote — a very simplistic way of seeing things. So where are you going to put
that dollar? Well, you're going to put that dollar in a demographic that is going to give
you at least 80% chance they're going to vote. For Latinos, it's around 20%. So, you're
going to say, “Well I’m going to put a dollar in and the probability that this person is
going go out and to vote is only going to be 20%? Then no.” And the last thing I would
say is that this thing needs to change because the numbers are there. If you look, for
example, in terms of Texas and you compare 2002 to 2018, you have around 220,000
more Latino voters that are registered. That's a lot of people. That's a lot of people that
can change one election one way or the other. The last thing is that also we have to
take into account is the different kind of electorates that I talked about and there you
have a potential pool of voters that can actually go out and vote, around 3.7 million
people that are waiting to be courted by a political party.

Joshua: Evelyn in our audience has a question about voting, Evelyn, while you make
your way to the mic, Angie I wanted to ask you — you talk with potential voters all the
time, are there one or two reasons that they tend to give most often for why they don't
vote?

Angie Razo: A lot of it is lack of information. They don't know when the election is
coming up. They don't know the fact that we have an election more than every four
years. They don't know where to go vote, there was a lot of confusing information. “In
early voting I can vote anywhere, but on election day I have to vote in my assigned
location? Where do I find that out? Nobody sent me a card, nobody contacted me.
You’re the first person to come by.” So those conversations that we have out in the field
are just super important because you get to understand — one, you get to hear people’s
story, so the issues they care about. So the ask is not, “I need you to go out and vote,”
but it's, “Tell me about your life, tell me about the issues that are impacting you, and let
me connect you with the proper information, so then you can actually make sure your
issues are being heard, and are being addressed through an election and then keeping
elected officials accountable.” But it's lack of information, and it's also, "I've never voted
before, so why should I start now?" So it's that initial step that people need to take of. "I
haven't voted before, I haven't voted in a really long time, why is this election important?
Who are we voting for?" It's just a really large gap in the knowledge that people have in
the Latino community so that's why Mi Familia Vota really seeks to engage our
community so we can one: talk to them in their own language, and two: really meet
them where they're at.

Joshua: Jacob, same question. What is it that you think prevents Latinos from voting as
often as other demographics?

Jacob Monty: Well I think it's a lack of role models, and this is why I think the election of
Lina Hidalgo was so important because she's a role model for conservative Latinos,
liberal Latinos because there had never been a Latino who had achieved this result.
Latinos had run for this position before or had talked about running but never had one
been successful so I think when you see a role model like Lina, that inspires people that
they can make a difference, that they should vote, and I think we need more role
models. I think the media made a big deal about AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez]
in New York, but Lina represents many more people than AOC and right here in
Houston. So I'm proud to be on the panel with you, Lina. Thank you for running — and
for winning.
[Applause]

Joshua: About 4.3 million in the county, if I'm not mistaken.


[Editor’s note: Harris County’s population is 4.6 million people, AOC represents New
York’s 14th District with 712,000 people.]

Judge Hidalgo: Well wait and see for the next census, it will probably be well above that.
And the title is county judge but it's not a judicial position, it's an executive position that
helps control the budget for our county — this fiscal year's budget is over five billion
dollars and of course our county's, at the last census, 43% Hispanic, but we had never
had a woman, we had never had a Hispanic person serve in that position or elected to
that position. Thank you, Jacob.

Joshua: Should we get to audience comments? Evelyn is at the mic. Hi Evelyn, thank
you for sharing your thoughts with us, what's on your mind?

Maria: Hi, I'm actually Maria, I'm here to read the question for her.

Joshua: Oh, okay.

Maria: The question is, “I get that I need to vote, but I don't think it's important. Should I
vote for people who can't vote?”

Joshua: Should I vote for people who can't vote?

Maria: Yes

Joshua: Angie?
Angie Razo: Can I take that? So, Mi Familia Vota has a youth leadership program and
the large majority of this youth leadership program is largely composed of high school
students and some college students. Ninety percent of the students that we work with
cannot vote, either because they are age ineligible or citizenship-status ineligible, but
they are some of the strongest civic leaders I know here in Houston. And so they are
the ones who are engaging their family members, engaging their peers. They are the
ones that are asking and demanding their schools administration host a voter
registration drive for their seniors, because they know that even that they cannot vote
yet, that they play an extremely powerful role in making sure that the Latino vote is
getting heard, that we are getting our community out to vote, and not just the Latino
community but across all cultural communities here in Houston. So yes, I would say find
out — you know have a conversation with the people that you love — what is impacting
them, what issues matter to them, and see if there's an upcoming election that is going
to intersect with those issues. And if there are candidates out there that are really going
to advocate for your loved ones then consider voting, consider getting that proper
information and speaking to those candidates and making sure that you can vote on
behalf of those who can't.

Joshua: Judge Hidalgo, you've also been working on issues of voter access, particularly
with regards to a voter roll purge in Texas that took place that Harris County pushed
back against. Tell us how you dealt with that.

Judge Hidalgo: Yeah so that's where you have to remember Harris County is the largest
county in Texas, third largest in the country, we're larger than 26 states. And so my take
is if the county and the county commissioner's court has direct decision-making
authority over an issue we ought to decide the right way, if not, we ought to advocate.
On the voter roll purge, our county got a list, from the state with almost 30,000 names of
people that they said were perhaps not actually supposed to be voting. And at the time,
that came to our tax assessor-collector-voter registrar. Of course, that's a vestige of the
poll tax, the fact that that's the same elected office. And we worked together and her
office basically took an initial look at this list of 30,000 people and immediately, they saw
if you took out the duplicates, and there was a mistake because it was clear that the list
included people who had simply gotten their driver's license when they were permanent
residents and then became U.S. citizens, so you identify all those people, take those
out. Then you're left with 11,000 people, all the other folks just upon an initial, cursory
look, are folks who are dutifully registered and able to vote. And so we immediately
stood up and said — and used our voice as the largest county to say, "This list is
suspect. We should not be claiming that these folks are not eligible to vote,” and what
the state was requesting was that our tax assessor-collector send a letter to these
voters that basically asked them to prove their citizenship within 30 days. Of course, the
problem is, what if you don't get the letter? What if you don't have a passport handy?
And then suddenly you're disenfranchised. So, we pushed back, we weren’t the only
ones, different organizations across the country, legal organizations sued, that's
currently being litigated in the courts. But you did have counties like the county home to
Waco, and they went through 100% of their lists and found that not a single person was
actually ineligible to vote, so it's unfortunate that we have to be vigilant against these
claims but we do, we have to look out for our voters. Just as we look to expand voting,
we have to protect against folks trying to curtail the right to vote.

Joshua: Sara is in the audience and she wanted to ask about her representation, Sara,
while you make your way to the mic, Jacob Monty let me ask you what you find what the
biggest issues for you and the Hispanic Republicans of Texas. Are they dramatically
different from what Hispanic Democrats in Texas are thinking about? Are they more
similar? What do you see?

Jacob Monty: Well the Republican Party is grappling with how to do better with
Hispanic, and if we don't start doing better with Hispanics, we're going to be the minority
party. We know this is what happened in California, and it seems simple to me: the
rhetoric on immigration has to change, not everyone has gotten that message.
Certainly, the rhetoric from the president has not been helpful, so as a party we're
struggling with how to do better with Hispanics when we have the president and others
that have used bad rhetoric towards Latinos and immigrants. It’s a big issue, we can't
get more of the Anglo vote, that much is clear. You can't win elections with 120% of the
Anglo vote. And for me, as a Bush Republican, I look back when we were getting 45%
of the Latino vote in 2004, it's possible, but again, the rhetoric was different. We're doing
some soul searching. Hopefully, we can turn it around because I'm a proud Republican,
I believe in limited government, but I am pro-immigrant, so some soul searching.

Judge Hidalgo: Joshua, if I could just respond to that, I think one thing that we saw
between 2014 and 2018, these midterm elections in Harris County, almost a doubling of
the Latino vote, and that to me does remind me of California, and mid-90s, Prop-187
and it was attacking immigrants’ right to access healthcare and basic necessities and I
think in a way, we're seeing that nationally, if not at least here in Harris County where
the rhetoric and the attacks are galvanizing the community to participate more than they
had before and to see, what somebody brought up earlier, this connection between a
vote and the policy.

Joshua: Sara is at the mic. Hi Sara, what's on your mind?

Sara: Hello, as a person under DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], I’m
incredibly concerned with my right of representation and I was very disappointed when
the bill passed in Congress did not mention anything about people under DACA — that
is the bill passed to end the government shutdown. So, my question is, what is being
done at the local, state, and even community level to guarantee representation and
equality for people with DACA and with people who just couldn't get DACA?

Joshua: Who wants to take that one? Professor?

Professor Cortina: We have to see it with a big caveat, so, on one hand, if nothing
changes for the 2020 census, every single person that lives the country without any
concern about citizenship status will be counted. That triggers a reapportionment
process at Congress, and that distributes the number of seats each state will have in
the next Congress. So that's one part of indirect representation. So as the number of
certain groups is growing, that representation, in theory, will be reflected in Congress.
You have more people, therefore you will have more people involved in politics, so on
and so forth. In terms of DACA, I think that unfortunately became the scapegoat for the
political process. That political process is going to be, to a certain extent, divided
between the Republican and the Democratic party, and those representatives that
believe in DACA, that believe in terms of they are not at fault, are members, contributing
members to our society, they're producing, they're working, so on and so forth, then
we’ll see a different opinion. And the very important thing is that public opinion in terms
of DACA, which is overwhelmingly favoring DACA, and the path to legalization, it's
completely different than what we see in Congress, that opposition. So, there is a very
important disconnect between public opinion, what the public wants, and that
representative democracy that in theory are represented electives should be
representing us in our views in terms of DACA precisely.

Joshua: Professor, if I could follow on that, you mentioned the 2020 census, do you see
that having any kind of impact on turnout for Latino voters, as an issue?
Professor Cortina: Well I think it could go both ways. I think that we saw in the midterm
election, we saw that a mass majority of Latinos, I think around 70% said that they
voted because they felt that it was their duty but also because of the rhetoric
surrounding the 2018 midterm election. Then, on the other hand, Latino voters may be
intimidated. They may be intimidated by deportation or what not, "Should I carry my
naturalization documentation with me at all times, if not can I be deported? What's going
to happen?" So, I think it can go both ways. It's going to depend, I think, on different
communities and how that population is distributed.

Joshua: Benjamin had a comment he wanted to share. Benjamin, while you make your
way to the mic, I wonder Angie, what you are doing, what you're seeing done as well to
make sure that more Latinos get to the polls, especially with the concern that the
Professor just raised. What do you find works best in terms of driving turnout? Or has
that been figured out?

Angie Razo: I think a lot of it is reaching people where they're at, in the language they
speak, but it really is in those on-the-ground conversations that we have with people
that we really start to realize, “How can we reach them?” For some populations, it is at
their house, in their own communities, in places that they trust, in the schools, with the
other community groups they trust. For young people, it's on social media, so we have
to rethink our outreach efforts based on who we're trying to outreach to, in what
language, in what spaces, what is attracting them. I think a lot of it is, another really
important part is, how do we include them in the work that we're doing? They don't want
to just be asked, "I need you to go vote," they want something more. One of the most
and exciting things from the 2018 election for me is that when we were done with our
heavy GOTV [get-out-the-vote] outreach and you know everybody kind of wants to drop
dead on November 7th, some of our students were asking, "What comes next? What do
we do next?" Because the work never stops for us. So, we also need to realize, how do
we include young people in our community in that continuous year-long civic
engagement. How do we include them in our census strategy, in our census outreach?
How are we including them in the Texas legislative session? So really rethinking not
only how are we building up our voting bloc, but what are we doing beyond voting?

Joshua: Go ahead, Judge.


Judge Hidalgo: I think that all of that outreach, the language access, it sets a tone for
the community. And we do have a very real issue. After Senate Bill Four passed, for
example, in the state legislature — which meant that folks can be stopped in a traffic
stop or they could be asked about their immigration status — rates of reporting for rape
and domestic violence went down among women. We have those issues now we need
folks to reach out and participate when it comes to Harvey recovery, when it comes to
healthcare access, but they're afraid. And so in that sense, it's setting the tone. We're
very concerned about the census. The county has filed an amicus brief supporting the
different jurisdictions that are saying there can't be a citizenship question on there
because it will depress turnout and ultimately that'll keep dollars from flowing to our
communities. But I do think that even if we don't have a direct role in something like
DACA for example, our ability to stand up for the communities, to speak to them in their
language, which is something I've been very focused on — making sure we have
language access, making sure I say things both in English and Spanish — just trying to
reach communities where they're at and we're just beginning but I think that goes a long
way.

Joshua: Before we get to Benjamin, Jacob, could you answer the turnout question also?
Do you find turnout challenges among Hispanic Republicans in Texas?

Jacob Monty: Yes. I think it can be depressed as well. One of my frustrations about all
of this discussion about voter ID and alleged fraud is that sometimes it becomes an
excuse for Republicans to do poorly at the polls. So, there's this narrative that, "Oh,
there must have been some monkey business going on because we wouldn't have
gotten clobbered that bad." And we saw some of that after the president was elected
where he talked about three million illegal voters that were never found. But I think that
voting has to be something sacred and you have to preserve the integrity, but you
shouldn't allow it to justify why a particular group did poorly at the polls and then it
becomes just a sham.

Joshua: Alright, Benjamin, you are at the mic Benjamin, what's on your mind?

Benjamin: Thanks! I was never involved in politics, in fact, I actively avoided getting
involved in politics, that is until 2016 when I saw that the national dialogue was about
my community without my voice. And what I mean by that is being a Latino immigrant
once-undocumented public health professional. When I saw that happen, I just decided
to quit my job — a C-level job, six-figure salary — to run for office. And although I didn't
win this time, it led to me starting a program in the Houston Community College system
to train young people to run for office, and so I was really excited to see Judge Hidalgo
win because that's what we need to see more of. So, here's a question: What can we do
to train the next generation of leaders? How can we be intentional about engaging
young Latinos, not only to vote, but to run for office themselves? Because I think we
need more of that as well.

Joshua: Benjamin, before I let the panel answer, and Angie I think you wanna jump in
and professor you may want to jump in too, can I just ask Benjamin what you've been
doing, what your organization does to try to foster that kind of engagement?

Benjamin: Yeah absolutely, so I'll give you an example. I was a political science major at
Rice — by some standards a pretty good school — but I didn't learn, when I wanted to
run for office I had to be like, "Okay how do you do this?" So the idea is teaching young
people, and saying, “Hey, as you go through your formal education process, here's
another path. You can run for office yourself, here's how you do it, here’s how you file,
here's how you speak to the media, here's how you run a board meeting and conduct
yourself because these are all the skill sets that you need to get elected.” Because that
skill set isn't there, even in our formal systems education. And what we saw with this
program in the Houston Community College System, to our knowledge and the best that
we could find it's the first in the country that is done in partnership with a formal
institution of education.

Joshua: Angie, and then professor?

Angelica Razo: Yeah, I think it's interesting how you said how do you train the next
generation of leaders and not how do we train the next voter, right? So, I think our
current strategy is very much focused on when somebody turns 18, we want to register
them to vote, we want them to vote, we get disappointed when they don’t go out to vote,
right? And then we get upset that young Latinos aren’t voting, clearly they just don't
care. But it's really taking a holistic strategy and how do we engage them in ways that,
one, it matters to them. That we're teaching them skills where they can apply them
across a lot of different fields and we're talking to them about issues and spaces where
they need to be because there are decisions being made on them on their behalf, where
they're really just not part of that process. But we want voters, and we want advocates,
and we want public servants. And we want researchers and people that understand
elections and people that know how to run campaigns. So, we really want to make sure
that as we're empowering this next generation that we find a role for everyone, that
everyone deserves a seat at the table, and everybody has something to contribute. And
as we're thinking about developing these new leaders, it’s asking them, "Where do you
see yourself playing a civic role?"

Joshua: Actually, professor, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like Jacob to answer this question
as well and then I'll come to you, professor. Jacob?

Jacob Monty: Oh gosh, the question was? I know it was a good one.

Joshua: It was a very good one, in terms of how to engage the next generation of
political leaders including training them in how running for office works and how being
elected works.

Jacob: I think Benjamin said it. We need role models though, and I think that's why it's
so important when someone like Lina wins, because for a lot of Latinos we haven't seen
someone that looks like us win or even run. I think role models are important. I think
someone like George P. Bush who is a role model for Latinos as well. In order for us to
get active politically, we have to see people that look like us that have done it and I think
that will inspire other people. I think the program that Benjamin is leading is a good start
as well.

Joshua: I'd also like to talk about some of the issues that you find are going to come up
to the surface in 2019 and 2020. Franklin also wanted to share his story so while
Franklin makes his way to the mic, Professor Cortina, how would you answer
Benjamin's question?

Professor Cortina: I think, first of all at the University of Houston, we have that class, so
I'm sorry that Rice doesn't have it, but we have a political campaign class at the
University of Houston. That's the first thing. The second thing is that we live in a
democracy that is a political party democracy. So political parties are not doing their
homework. They're not recruiting, they're not going into the communities and starting to
form leaders. We saw in the 2018 election if political parties recruit the right candidates
— not the right candidate on paper, but the right candidate for the district or for the
county — wins. We saw Judge Hidalgo, a great candidate in terms of preparation, in
terms of studies, education, so on and so forth, but also the right candidate for the
county. So that's one issue. The other issue is that if young voters do not understand
that their vote has a significant — significant implication in their daily lives, the
government is present in our lives every single day. So, the person that's going to be
elected is going to have a role in our lives whether we like it or not. So, it's very
important to present the issues as if this group of people, let's say generation Xers, my
generation vote, frankly, I don't care right now about college tuition. My kids are not
there yet. I'm not worried about that stuff. Young voters are. So my bloc, we're starting
to think about social security. Am I going to be able to retire or not? We're starting to
think about other issues that perhaps certain candidates are not going to represent, so if
my group of people, if my generation goes out and vote at higher numbers, my issues
are going to be represented. And the question to young voters is, “Are your issues going
to be represented or not?” And it's your responsibility to go out and vote, if not, then you
don't have really a say in the situation. That's how democracy and that's how elections
are won — by the number of people who go out and vote. Whoever has more people,
wins.

Judge Hidalgo: I think to that too they need to — it's up to them to show up and vote
and I think it's also up to us in government to lower those barriers.

Professor Cortina: Absolutely.

Judge Hidalgo: So we talk about young people voting, and we talk about high schoolers,
for example. Texas law says that schools are supposed to encourage voting among
kids when they turn 18. And I think the Texas Civil Rights Project put something out
recently, only about 30% of the schools have requested the documentation they would
need to go register those students twice a year. So, we're working with their tax
assessor-collector to make sure we get into those schools. You mentioned voting
centers earlier. It's confusing to people of all ages in our community in Texas. You've
got one early voting location, you can vote anywhere those locations are open. Come
election day, and I've seen this happen, somebody shows up after work, they drive to
the polling location that's assigned to them based on where they live, they get there,
they can't make it before the polls close at 7:00. Or they get to the polling location close
to their work, and they're in at 6:30 and they're told, "Sorry, you're not assigned to this
one, you gotta go drive 40 minutes." There's no way they'll make it by 7:00. And so part
of what we're doing, our county clerk, we've approved — and right now this is starting in
May election, which different cities within the county are having school board and city
elections — is for people to be able to vote at any polling location on election day. You
would think that was already happening. I mean it's just incredible how much catchup
we do. We gotta start, and it takes both sides — it takes the communities getting
engaged and fired up and the parties doing that, but it also takes us lowering those
barriers to entry.

Joshua: One of the things that get communities fired up are the issues that they're
voting on so we'll focus on that with the time that we have left, but first, Franklin has a
comment then I'd love to hear from Maria and Karina so if you two could make your way
up to the mic as well, but Franklin go ahead. What's on your mind?

Franklin: Hello, panelists, audience, and listeners to the 1A show. My name is Franklin,
I'm 24. I'm a senior at the University of Houston. I belong to the 700,000+ Dreamers
who grew up undocumented in this country and was privileged enough to acquire the
deferral for childhood arrivals also known as DACA here in this country. I want to make
this short testimony as to why the Latino vote matters and why, you know, immigrants in
this community also matter. But I wanted to start by giving a quick origin, a background
to my story. You see, my parents back in the 1980s grew up in the Salvadorian Civil
War. They're from El Salvador. And understanding that kind of childhood, after the war,
my parents, my dad in particular, decided to move into a safer environment that he
could provide for his family, and he came over to the U.S. After a couple of years, my
mom and I were brought over and during that time growing up, in a Latino household,
there wasn't really much awareness as far as communication between the community,
between public officials, between the issues going on. It wasn't until recently, about a
couple of years ago, when you’re sitting and listening to the radio and watching
television, and unlike any other experience when you hear people talking about a
particular issue, in this instance the issue was me. People were talking about me. I
know some people who become civically engaged and as someone who cannot vote in
this country, I knew I had to do something. One of the things that I have realized as far
as living here in Houston and in this community, is that a lot of young people, even in
immigrant communities and Latino people in general, aren’t knowledgeable or informed
about the issues of their communities or don't know or understand the resources
available to them or the processes on how to access these resources — voting,
elections, and registering to vote. And it was kind of an eye-opener to me because there
are these communities that exist, but almost seem like they are forgotten. My work as
far as being a DACA recipient and although I cannot vote, I try to encourage people to
vote because I can't. I do that because growing up in this community I realized the
importance of being stronger together and trying to communicate with your neighbors
about the importance of facing tough issues in your community. And one last note as far
as becoming civically engaged is essentially teaching people that people like me,
immigrants, do care about their neighborhoods, do care about the country they live in,
and do want to get involved. It's just a matter of fact of whether we should give them the
opportunity or not to. Thank you.

[Applause]

Joshua: Yeah Franklin, thank you very much. Thank you very much for sharing your
story. Before we get to Maria, Angie I'd love for you to react to Franklin's story.

Angelica Razo: I think the Dreamers of all ages in this country, particularly here in
Texas, are an interesting group because they may not have voting power. They cannot
vote, right? That’s a clear fact, but they have political power — very, very strong political
power here in Texas. I’ll give you an example. At the Texas legislative session that’s
currently happening right now, almost every single legislative session there is a bill that
is introduced to roll back in-state tuition for undocumented students that attend a public
institution in the state of Texas. It never gets very far, because pretty quickly after it’s
introduced, community groups like Mi Familia Vota across the state go to Austin and
they advocate against it. Community members advocate against it, they’re talking to
their elected officials. Elected officials know they will not be voted out by the
undocumented population. They are voted out by the people that are loved by the
undocumented population, by the Dreamers. And it goes back to why do we vote. We
vote for the people we love. We vote based on our values. What is important to us, what
are the issues that are impacting our realities. Even if I’m a U.S. citizen, and I look
around me and who I consider part of my community, I wanna make sure their voice is
heard. That to me is very empowering as an individual, and for our community. So
Franklin, thank you so much for sharing your testimony. I think it’s — I think it’s a really
good example of how other Dreamers in Texas definitely view themselves. And I also
wanted to make an additional comment. Talking about lowering barriers, when we pass
laws that instill fear in our immigrant communities and our Dreamers, then they don’t
want to stand up like Franklin and share their story, and share their testimony, and
share why it’s so important that we vote on their behalf. So, we have to make sure that
as a city and as a state we’re really making sure we’re passing policies that are not
stifling their voices.

Joshua: Before we get to Maria and Karina, Jacob I know you wanted to chime in.

Jacob Monty: Sure, and it goes to Franklin’s comment but also to Sara’s comment
before that. Look I think the biggest enemies against immigrants have been in the
Republican Party. But yes, but there are immigrants in the Democratic Party as well
because there was an opportunity to get DACA solved and I do think there was almost
an issue of, “Let’s save immigration and DACA for the 2020 election.” I think the DACA
community needs to hold both parties accountable especially now that the Democrats
control the house. And you know, immigration is — it’s too important to be political and
at least the DACA issue should be continued. Both parties need to be held accountable
for it.

Joshua: Is Maria at the mic? While we’re waiting for Maria, oh there you are.
Hi Maria, welcome back Maria. What’s on your mind?

Maria: Hi, thank you, I’m a high school senior and this is the first time I’ve attended
something like this and I’m actually kind of happy that there’s this sort of event like this
here in the East End. And up until a year ago, I started getting involved in activism and
politics and it all started after the shooting in Florida. And we had the March for Our
Lives rally here in city hall and that was the first time where I actually felt where I
needed to do something. So, I left the classroom and I went with my friend, we took the
metro and we were there at city hall. Being there I felt that I was doing something
important. Ever since that day, something changed. And my passion for activism has
grown even more, especially with Angie and Mi Familia Vota. And also the right to vote
is very important. My father, as a little girl he’s always installed in me that to vote every
single election. My father came to this country in the early 90s and ever since he
became naturalized and became a citizen, he is very proud that he gets to vote. I’m just
happy I’m going to be able to do that when I turn 18. And honestly, I’m just very happy
that there’s an event like this in the East End because I usually have to have my father
drive me halfway across the town and now it’s here in my neighborhood, so thank you.
Joshua: I’m glad we could make it easy for you to get here Maria, I’m glad that you
speak up. Yeah, I appreciate you speaking up.
[applause]
Joshua: Could I ask you, Maria, before we keep moving — and Karina, we’ll get to you
next — you said that the shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida kind of
moved you to get involved with the March for Our Lives and so on. So clearly gun
violence is one of the big issues that fired you up to get you active. What are some of
the other issues that are high up on your list when you are an active voter, when you
are increasingly politically active, what else is high on your list?

Maria: I would say gentrification is one of the big ones. It’s definitely happening a lot
here in this neighborhood. A lot of the houses, neighborhoods that I knew growing up,
they’re no longer there. It’s very sad to see that. And a lot of our people here in the
neighborhood have to move out, elsewhere because they no longer can afford to live
here anymore — like my sister had to leave and live like 40 minutes away and has to
travel so much in the mornings and the afternoons because she couldn’t afford to live
here anymore.

Joshua: Judge Hidalgo, I wonder if you could respond to that — we almost did this
panel on gentrification so I’m glad you brought that up because it’s such a big issue.
One of the things that came out in the reporting after Hurricane Harvey, was about the
way the Houston area has been developed and made so much more concrete that had
made it hard for the storm waters to recede, so development has been a big issue at
least nationally in terms of why Harvey went the way it went. Talk about how you deal
with an issue like gentrification. Because on one hand, you have communities who say,
“This is our home, this is not just a home it’s a cultural center that we want to keep.” On
the other hand, there’s this economic imperative, that you gotta keep the economic
engine of Harris County chugging. How do you balance that?

Judge Hidalgo: Yeah, and then how do you balance that with the reality that Harris
County, Houston, we’re built on a swamp, and so we have to be smart about the way
we grow. So, it is unfortunate how much people are being pushed out to the suburbs in
the sense that we don’t have the transportation system to support that. So, if you add
housing and transportation costs in Harris County and you make that your cost-of-living
estimate, which some folks do, then cost-of-living is just as high, if not higher, here than
in San Francisco. And what we’re focused on is that — we don’t have a transit line from
the airport for example. We are building roads that encourage development sometimes
where we shouldn’t build. So we begin having those conversations, and we’re working,
for example, on including climate change estimates in our floodplain maps, making sure
that folks, that as we plan for a more resilient community, that we’re looking at flooding,
that we’re looking at housing. The county right now is doing a countywide housing
study, first of its kind. So how can you come up with an answer to something as
complicated as gentrification if we’ve never looked at housing as a whole? We are
facing it around criminal justice system issues too. We’re reforming our justice system,
we are reforming the way bail is done in Harris County and as folks are able to leave the
jail who aren’t supposed to be there in the first place. There’s not enough housing for
them. The same situation happens, folks that want to move out of the floodplain
because they discover, and now we’re drawing this out and trying to proactively inform
the community that they live in an area — some areas you can do projects, we’re
working on projects to get them out of the floodplain, other areas are just going to flood,
so we offer to just buy people out. But if you buy people out, where else are they
supposed to live? There’re very real concerns, we’re looking at them. But they really just
haven’t been addressed in a very long time.

Joshua: We have time for a few more comments, let’s get to Karina who’s on the mic. Hi
Karina, what’s on your mind?

Karina: Hello everyone. Hello panelists. My name is Karina from the University of
Houston. I got invited here with an invitation from the College Republicans. I’d like to
make some background before I go ahead and ask my question. I think one of the main
issues in the Latino community is that we are misinformed, and we don’t do enough
research on our own. My mom is really hard on being pro-life and before, she can’t vote,
but she would ask me to vote Democrat because that’s what Latinos, for the most part,
stand for when it comes to illegal immigration and other issues. But what she didn’t
know is that Democrats usually stand on the side for abortion, and especially with these
bills in New York coming up. They’re very broad and open for interpretation. Should the
Hispanic community in Texas follow Georgia’s step in also having a bill where abortion
is banned at six weeks? I think we’re — most of Latinos are pro-life. We do see life as
very sacred. So where should the Hispanic community stand on this issue and how do
we inform others about where we stand?
Joshua: Karina, that’s a good question. I’d love Jacob and the Professor to answer that,
because Jacob, before the program I think you told one of the producers that, based on
core values, more Latinos should end up being Republicans.

Jacob Monty: Yes, I agree that when it comes to distrust of government, family values,
being against abortion, being in favor of free enterprise. I think Latinos would line up
Republican but for the toxic rhetoric on immigrants that repels Latinos away from the
party. I agree Karina, a lot of Latinos are called for different issues. Unfortunately, the
dog whistle on immigration tends to drown out other issues that could be attractors to
the party but a lot of times all we hear the dog whistle which is we aren’t welcome in the
party and we’re not wanted. I agree, there are other attractions, unfortunately, we don’t
hear about them.

Joshua: Professor Cortina, what about issues like abortion in terms of the larger palette
of issues that Latino voters tend to be most engaged on?

Professor Cortina: It’s why, I think — that illustrates that political parties perhaps don’t
know how to talk to Latinos, right? I’ll give an example. They may be conservative on
certain social issues, like abortion for instance. But Latinos tend to be more liberal, for
example, on issues about education, on issues about health policy, on issues about the
economy, so on and so forth. When it comes to that, it becomes perhaps bread and
butter issues. Yes, social issues may be extremely important, but when it comes to,
“Well, can I send my kid to college or not? Well these guys tell me I can but the other
party is telling me, ‘No you can’t.’” So how my vote is going to be decisive in that case.
And the other part is that political parties do not necessarily know, as an institution,
know how to talk to Latino voters. You have President Ford, right, when he tried to eat a
tamale here in Texas when he was here campaigning. He ate the tamale with the husk.
And then on the other hand, you have —

[Laughter]

Joshua: Just for those who are listening who have never eaten a tamale, you’re not
supposed to eat it with the husk.
Professor Cortina: Right, right it’s impossible.

[Laughter]

Joshua: For those who are playing the home game, don’t do that.

[Laughter]

Professor Cortina: Right, you cannot do it.

Joshua: Your Mexican friends will laugh at you when you leave and you’ll never know
why.

Professor Cortina: Right, absolutely. And then you have President Bush, W. Bush, that
knows how to talk to Latino voters, and that’s why he got 40-something percent of the
Latino vote. So, there are these issues about political parties that they have to think
about it, but also in terms of how you divide social issues in terms of real bread and
butter issues.

Joshua: Inge [ING-ah] also had a comment — I know our time is running short, but Inge
let’s get you up to the mic. Angie, I wanted to ask you, in terms of issues, what do you
hear from folks on the ground in terms of what they bring up, when they say, “Here’s
what I want done, here’s what I want changed, here’s what I want action on.” What’s at
the top of the list for the people you deal with?

Angelica Razo: I think it varies, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I think people
talk about the issues as they identify the community they belong to. So that’s the Latino
community — if they’re very proud to be a young person, if they’re really proud of being
a high schooler, they’re really proud of being a person that lives in the East End, then
they see, "What is impacting my community?" And they really start to develop their
narrative around that. So, in the East End, it is gentrification, that’s something that’s
close to their heart. If they come from a mixed-status family, they’re a Dreamer, they’re
undocumented, it’s immigration because they see it play out every single day in their
lives. So, there are some issues that we care about, but what I notice in the Latino
community is that we prioritize those issues that we have a personal connection with,
that really every single day we don’t know that the government is interacting with our
lives, but it is. It’s immigration, it’s education. That’s something that we really value in
our community. So we really want our students, our children to go to college and we
want to make that accessible. It’s healthcare. When your parent has to quit their job
because they have a health condition and now the child knows, “I have the burden of
raising this family and have more family responsibilities because healthcare is an issue
that is impacting my life.” As they start to think about these issues, then they’re going to
look to the candidates and the elected officials that are advocating on their behalf. So,
it’s two steps. It’s one, what are the issues that are impacting me personally. Who is
going to advocate on my behalf?

Joshua: Inge is at the mic. Hey Inge, what’s on your mind?

Inge: Good evening, thank you panel and thank you, Joshua. As a native Texan, which,
I don’t know that I can really say that when Texas was really part of Mexico. I’m curious
to find out, given the climate of the national conversations, how is it that so many
conservative Latino voters tend to vote Republican given historically — you know,
what’s going on.

Joshua: Elaborate on “You know what’s going on.”

Inge: Well, I mean immigration is a classic example. It’s really kind of weird that we
would try to speak for a whole group of people in terms of what the issues are. We know
that everyone wants bread and butter issues taken care of or addressed. And they want
to feel safe with their votes. But the conservative arms, say [Senator] Ted Cruz types,
tend to forget their comeuppance if you will, and seem to negate the real issues that are
going on in these communities.

Joshua: Jacob?
Jacob Monty: Well Inge, I think at least the problem for me, as a Republican, is that
Latinos are voting less and less Republican. Donald Trump won with less than 30% of
the Latino vote. That’s like the floor. He essentially got Mitt Romney numbers. When a
Republican like George W. Bush got 45 — some people say it’s even more than 45%.
So Latinos are voting less and less Republican, that’s what concerns me. And that’s
why I think unless the Republican party can do better, Texas will turn blue, I mean it’s
already purple, so, that’s what concerns me —

Inge: But the conversations throughout the country are so vile and so vitriolic. They’re
divisive at best. And it doesn’t seem that — when you have people in office such as
Senator Cruz and people like him who don’t seem to get it. Even [Senator] Marco Rubio
— I spent a couple of years living in West Palm Beach, Florida — and as a native Texas
and has moved back from one conservative state to another, I guess I’m a masochist.
But I’m very concerned about it because these are not the issues that reflect our
population.

Joshua: Can I just tag onto Inge’s comment, Jacob, I hear where you’re going Inge. I
think you’re being very charitable in your verbiage about it —

Inge: You gave the rules.

Joshua: And I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, Jacob, because in Donald
Trump’s campaign announcement speech, he said that Mexico is sending crime, drugs,
rapists, and, “Some I assume are good people.” That was his opening salvo to the
nation, as to why he should be president. And he’s engaged in a lot of very nativist,
racist, nationalist rhetoric from the minute he’s become a candidate and hasn’t really
paused. How do you as a Republican working here on the ground with a community that
you know, we all know, the Republican party needs, how do you work around that?
There are so many Latinos, African Americans, LGBT people who will look at Donald
Trump and say, “As long as he’s in your party, count me out.” How do you work around
that?

Jacob Monty: Look, that’s the problem. I was on his campaign for about three weeks.
And he wasn’t my first choice but I thought, “Look, I want a Republican to win.” I was
able to overlook that opening speech that he made at Trump Tower and I had two
meetings with him. The meetings were great — he sat down and said, “I want
immigration reform. We’re going to bring people out of the shadows.” I was on board
until he went to Phoenix and announced his immigration plan that called for deporting
the Dreamers and mass deportations, that’s when I resigned the next day and publicly
denounced him. So look, it is a challenge. What I do as a Republican right now is, I
agree with him when he does something I agree with, which mainly deals with the
economy. When he does something bad on tariffs or on immigration, I don’t sit quietly.
And other Republicans are likewise disagreeing with him, not as much as I would like,
but it is a tough situation because he is the leader of the party. But I was happy to see
some Republican senators buck him on the emergency declaration and I was proud to
see that because you know we shouldn’t go along with him just because he’s the
president. If he’s wrong, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad Republican to disagree with the
president, I mean this is America, you can still do that.

Joshua: Before we go, Alexander, you had a comment. While you’re making your way
to the mic, Professor Cortina did you want to jump in?

Professor Cortina: It’s very simple, demographics, to a certain extent. If the same rate of
the Latino vote and the African American vote keeps increasing, the Republican party, if
it doesn’t get its act together in terms of how to talk to these minority communities is
going to be in a very, very, very, very dangerous position. If Democrats start winning
Texas in presidential elections, Republicans basically getting 270 votes in the electoral
college is going to be extremely, extremely, extremely, very, very, very, difficult for them
to win the presidency in the near future. So that’s one issue. And the question is here in
2018, at least in Texas, the electorate sent a message. The question is — and some
representatives, Representative [Jonathan] Stickland has said, “Well, we need to talk
about these things because we’re not talking as a political party,” as Jacob is saying.
Cruz won with less than 2.7% of a margin. And in terms of the Latino vote, some say
that it was 70/30 for Beto O’Rourke and others say it was 80/20. So there is a message.
The question is, are you listening?

Joshua: Alright, before we go, Alexander is at the mic. Alexander, what’s on your mind?

Alexander: Hello, thank you, panelists, thank you, Joshua. My question is about how do
you feel about the double standard of candidates having to prove that they are
authentically in tune with their culture. I bring this up especially because for a candidate
like Julián Castro, who is currently the only Latino candidate, there have been questions
or concerns raised for the fact that he doesn’t speak fluent Spanish. And to have seen
that during this period in time where there’s rhetoric going around about how immigrants
need to learn English in order to be considered truly American, how do you feel about
this double standard being thrown around? And just as a quick note, for a candidate like
Beto O’Rourke, who is white, his ability to speak fluent Spanish is seen as a boon and a
positive to him. And there’s no question about him having to prove his commitment to a
white community. This isn’t just related to Latino candidates, in general, but also
candidates of color in general.

Joshua: Good question Alexander. Judge Hidalgo, would you answer that then I’ll come
to the Professor?

Judge Hidalgo: Yeah, I think it’s a fascinating question and it’s not easy running for
office and I can say just as a first-time candidate and I do think if you just look at our
representation, clearly there are some barriers keeping diverse candidates from running
and from winning. Part of the movement, I think, that started in 2018 with more people
participating in this movement of encouraging folks to run and supporting that and
nurturing that. I think we need to continue doing that. I think to the extent that it’s about
normalizing it as well. To the extent that we nurture new entrants and these are diverse
candidates that represent all kinds of communities, we will change the discourse and
the culture around what we expect a candidate to look like and to do and not do. And I’ll
say for myself, starting out, it was some groups that helped. There’s Run For
Something, a group that helps young candidates run for office. The Arena helps new
candidates run for office. New training, staff support, we need to build that as part of our
civic infrastructure just as much as we need to improve access to voting, just as much
as you need to be inside the schools, just as much as we need to recognize that no
community is defined by a single issue, but that it really comes with who each person is.
So that’s a wonderful question.

Joshua: Professor?

Professor Cortina: We have to — well we don’t have to assume. We know that voters
are sophisticated voters regardless of their race and ethnicity. For example, if you don’t
go very far, you go to the 29th Congressional District that was represented by
Congressman Gene Green. Non-Hispanic white. He won and he won every single
reelection until he retired. Why? Because he was serving his constituency. He was
actually serving his constituency in such a way that the constituency says, “Well,
perhaps you don’t represent me descriptively speaking, but in substance, in terms of the
issues that I care about, you are doing a great job.” We also see it in — we had this
discussion the first time that President [Barack] Obama runs, “Latinos are not going to
vote for an African American candidate.” And that was not true, because during his
campaign President Obama was able to communicate the issues that substantively
affect the Latino community and therefore, they voted. And the other way around.
African Americans vote for Latino candidates. So on and so forth. So I think that the
litmus test for candidates basically once they get elected as Judge Hidalgo is saying —
and this is very refreshing to hear from an elected official — is that we have to do our
job in terms of representing the constituency and giving them what is important and
have this two-way street of communicating with the base and say, “What do you want?
What do you need? What can we do?” Let’s sit down at the table and construct this
more of a community policymaking decision rather than from the top down.

Joshua: Thank you all for your great questions and stories. Before we wrap up, one last
thing I’d like to do and I’m going to kind of call an audible if I could, could I get that
wireless mic back that we had at the beginning? I’m going to ask the panel one last
quick question and then I have one question for everybody in the audience, whoever
wants to answer it. I’d love for you to give me a little fill in the blank. “If you absolutely
want my vote, focus on blank, blank, and blank.” In order. Your top three issues. After
I’m done with the panel, I’ll come down, whoever wants to share their answer can. “If
you absolutely want my vote, focus on blank, blank, and blank.” In that order. So I’ll give
you a second to think that over while we give the panel their last chance to just state
anything else, briefly, that you think the nation, that political parties, that political action
committees, that candidates should bear in mind about Latino voters. Let’s start with the
professor and work our way back to Judge Hidalgo and then I’ll make my way down to
you. Professor?

Professor Cortina: Well I think it’s important to engage Latino voters. It’s important to
engage African Americans. It’s important to engage Asian voters, non-white Hispanics.
It’s very important to engage all voters. We live in a representative democracy and if we
don’t take that seriously in terms of our views have to be represented then policies are
not going to be as effective and as efficient as we would like to. In terms of Latino
voters, I think that finally we can see, especially with younger generations coming of
age, we’re going to have at least in Texas around 350,000 18 to 30-year-olds entering
the electorate by 2020. It’s going to put a lot of pressure on how the American political
system absorbs these votes and also how likely they’re going to participate, because it’s
a two-way street, right? If Latino voters do not participate then the whole issue and the
whole kumbaya etc., etc., is going to deflate. And political parties are not going to start
paying attention. So, it’s an interactive issue and we’re going to see a lot more.

Joshua: Angie?

Angelica Razo: I think we need to rethink the strategies of engaging Latino voters and
engaging young people. We get into this mindset that we can just do the same think
over and over again. The 60 days before an election that we will just encourage people
to register to vote and then to go out and vote and run a very traditionally-fueled
campaign. And that’s not working anymore. We’re seeing that young voters are getting
excited by different things, by different issues that we haven’t heard in a really long time
and we have to make sure their voices are being uplifted that we’re meeting them where
they’re at and that we’re investing in them. The candidates are wanting to go and are
meeting with these potential voters, not secured voters, potential voters. That
community organizations are coordinating with one another to make sure that we are
really covering the entire ground here in Houston, in Harris County, and that the media
is really highlighting and uplifting those young people, those candidates, those elected
officials that have really stood their ground and have said we are going to engage and
we’re here for the long term, we’re not just here through November.

Joshua: Jacob?

Jacob Monty: Look, if you care about economic prosperity, you’re going to vote to
legalize the DACA community and their parents. America is not full. We need more
workers and the only way this prosperity continues is if we have more immigrants and
we legalize the immigrants that are here. In my book, they’re Americans, let’s do the
paperwork and make them official.

Joshua: And Judge, while I make my way down?

Judge Hidalgo: It’ll take work for every voter to stay informed, participating whatever
that means for you. For political parties, reaching out, showing up to the communities.
Doing Spanish-language outreach, TV, not just investing in the English-speaking
community but all the diverse communities. And for elected officials, it shouldn’t be a
mystery what government does, what any level of government does. We need
compassionate policies. We’re going to repel communities if we don’t have policies that
extend a hand to them.

Joshua: Alright, let me work my way down the line, everyone doesn’t have to answer
but as I make my way across, raise your hand if you’d like to. “If you absolutely want my
vote, focus on blank, blank, and blank.” Young lady — are you old enough to vote yet?

Karina: Yes, I am, I’m 22.

Joshua: Oh, I beg your pardon; you look so youthful. What are your three answers?
Focus on —

Karina: So, for me, continue the Hispanic record low unemployment, which will mean to
focus on innovation and technology. We know most Latinos are front line employees
and we know, in my industry, technology will take over 30% leaving a lot of people
without jobs. So, technology and preserving liberty in the United States.

Joshua: Excellent. Anybody else? Very briefly. Benjamin, right? What are your three?

Benjamin: Come talk to me, don’t talk about me. Comprehensive immigration reform
and criminal justice reform.

Joshua: Stand up if you wouldn’t mind, my arms aren’t quite that long. What’s your
name?

Maya: Maya.

Joshua: And what are your three, Maya?


Maya: So, you have to focus on your character, my cultural nuances, and my economic
power in the fourth industrial revolution.

Joshua: Excellent. What’s your name?

Michelle: My name is Michelle. I would like us to focus on the importance of net


neutrality. I feel like we feel in a very interconnected world and we aren’t paying
attention to what’s happening in public policies in terms of the internet. I think we need
to focus on women’s reproductive freedoms. I believe that we should be in charge of our
own bodies and we have the right to be treated as whole human beings. And also the
importance of science especially when it comes to climate change. I have gone through
about five natural disasters in the last eight years and it just cannot keep happening. It’s
not sustainable for our society.

Joshua: Who else? Yes, what’s your name?

Patricia: Patricia. So, for me, it would be different depending on what they’re running for.
So, if they’re running for an executive position — executive candidate, executive branch
— what they need to focus on, that you represent a diverse group of people and that
you are not a dictator. For legislative candidates, ensuring my rights are protected. And
for a judicial candidate, knowing the law and ruling fairly.

Joshua: Excellent. Anybody else? Who else? Alexander, is that it? Alexander, what are
your three?

Alexander: Reducing corruption, meeting your constituents, and increasing refugee


admissions.

Joshua: Who else? Yes, sir, stand up if you would. What’s your name?

Brian: I’m Brian.


Joshua: What’s on your list, Brian?

Brian: Non-partisan policies based on data. Financial and political education for the
community. And make sure you have transparent financing for your campaigns.

Joshua: Yeah, that’s a big one. That’s a big one. Who else? I’ll make my way up to you
in just one second. Anyone? What’s your name?

Jessica: My name is Jessica. My three are women, business, and immigration.

Joshua: Excellent. Go ahead, sir.

Nelson: Nelson. Mine are comprehensive immigration reform, education, and


environmental issues.

Joshua: Excellent. Yes, ma’am?

Shirley: Shirley. Access to healthcare, affordable education for everyone, and affordable
housing for communities like mine where the average income is $47,000 a year.

Joshua: I hear that — I hear that. Yes, ma’am?

Sonia: Sonia. Candidates need to recognize that Latinos are not a one-size-fits-all
community. There’s Puerto Rican-Hispanics, there’s Cuban-Hispanics, Mexican-
Hispanics, Honduran, and so on and so on and so on. So there’s no one solution that
fits every single individual in the Latino community so when we speak to the Hispanic
community, we need to recognize that there are differences in our communities. While
we still share the Hispanic experiences, we are different in many ways. I believe in
compassionate policies, but I would like to add the word “responsible.” Compassionate,
but responsible, policies.
Joshua: Thank you. Over here? Who over here? Yes.

Javier: My name is Javier. I’m the director here at the Talento Bilingüe and one of the
things I’d love to see is for both parties to really embrace the Latino community and
show me a party that has those brown faces in them. You know I really want to just
show so much respect for Mr. Jacob Monty. Because Jacob when it came down to it,
you stood up and you held yourself responsible and liable and you crossed that line and
I appreciate what you did. And even though I’m a Democrat, I appreciate what you did.
And I long for those days of the Bush Republicans voting again. So I want to see them
embrace the Latino community. I would love to see them, of course, have immigration
reform and also a path to citizenship.

Joshua: Anyone else? Yes?

Paul: My name is Paul and I’m a third-year high school teacher and my number one
focus is education, just focusing on education funding. Number two, gerrymandering. If
you look at CD [Congressional District] number two — crazy just don’t do it. And
number three overturning Citizens United, hashtag get big money out.

Joshua: Yes, anybody I missed? Well, in that case, thank you all for your answers and
thanks also to Lina Hidalgo Harris County Judge, Judge Hidalgo thanks for being with
us today.

Judge Hidalgo: Thank you so much.

Joshua: Jerónimo Cortina, an associate professor of political science and the Associate
Director for the Center of Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston.
Professor Cortina, thank you very much.

Professor Cortina: Thank you.


Joshua: Angelica Razo, the Houston Area Coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, Angie, thank
you!

Angelica Razo: Thank you for hosting.

Joshua: And immigration attorney, Jacob Monty, a member of the Political Action
Committee Hispanic Republicans of Texas.
Jacob, thanks for being with us.

Our show today was produced by Amanda Williams, special thanks to Elizabeth Trovall
of Houston Public Media. Thanks also very much to the team here at Talento Bilingüe
de Houston. The 1A team and some of the panelists will be sticking around in the lobby
if you have any additional questions that you’d like to get answered. Our team will be
back in Houston soon for another Across America event. We visited this year. We will
be back next year before the 2020 election. Until then, I’m Joshua Johnson, thank you
for coming tonight. Goodnight!

[Transcription by Jake Rutter]