I am not going to lie to you. It is very difficult to sit in my office today, with the full recognition that the President-Elect of the United States of America opened his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists, promising to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, and promoting the use of deportation forces rather than put forth a set of common sense resolutions. For many it feels like our country has become a dangerous place for Hispanics. Responses from women, immigrants, and families, among many others, reveal a cloud of sadness and despair that may not soon dissipate.
While our community does what is needed to process these emotions, and decompress from a very contentious election, I think that several key things happened that should give Hispanics in the United States hope that our future in this country can still be bright:
1. Approximately 14 million Latinos voted in the 2016 election. While the final numbers are still being crunched, the expectation was for about 3.5 million more Latinos to vote in 2016 than in 1012. This means that we are beginning to realize our political power and strength at the polls.
2. The first Latina United States Senator was elected. Catherine Cortez Masto was elected to replace retiring Senator Harry Reid and represent Nevada. This means that we have broken another barrier for Hispanic representation at the highest levels.
3. The first Dominican-American and first Puerto Rican from Florida were elected to the United States House of Representatives. Adriano Espaillat was elected to represent the 13th Congressional District of New York, and Darren Soto was elected to represent the 9th Congressional District of Florida.
4. Sheriff Joe Arpaio was defeated in his re-election bid. Arguably the most anti-immigrant public servant in the country was finally stopped from targeting and demoralizing Hispanic immigrants in Arizona. This was attributable to Hispanic organizers energizing voters to end his abuse of power.
We know we have a long road ahead of us as we continue to fight for Hispanic women, families and children on issues such as education reform, economic priorities, health care, immigration reform and more. We want to continue our work to push for inclusion of Hispanics in the leadership of the new administration. And we want to be instrumental in healing the wounds of the election season. Our hope is that we have the opportunity to engage with the new administration and hold the President-Elect to his acceptance speech promise to serve “the forgotten men and women of our country”.
So our message to the Hispanic community is that we continue to have hope beyond this one election. We have just begun to harness our collective political strength. Now is the time for us to stand proudly as Americans and be part of the solution. Look at what was accomplished in pockets where we saw success and the national impact they will have. Imagine what we could do if we mobilize the 27.3 million eligible Hispanic voters we have nationwide, plus the 66,000 Hispanics who will turn 18 in the United States each month before the next election. That’s how we prevent the despair we feel today from ever happening again.