In 2016, Latinas Will Make The Difference

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05:  (L-R) America Ferrera, Maria Teresa Kumar, and Rosario Dawson attend Voto Latino's Purple Carp
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: (L-R) America Ferrera, Maria Teresa Kumar, and Rosario Dawson attend Voto Latino's Purple Carpet Bash at All American Pub on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Ken Charnock/Getty Images)

Within a span of five days in June, the Supreme Court ruled on two cases that will leave a lasting impact on Latino and immigrant communities across the country.

First, the justices deadlocked at 4-4 on two executive actions on immigration. DAPA and the expansion of the already-successful DACA program could potentially protect millions of immigrants from mixed-status families from deportation, but last month's decision meant that the programs would remain stalled.

I thought of the millions of U.S. citizen children whose parents' lives remain in limbo, who continually live in fear that they could wake up to knocks on the door from immigration agents who have come for their mothers and fathers. My heart sank.

And now, our community awaits the response from the Supreme Court after the Department of Justice requested that it rehear the case once the vacant seat left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia is filled.

We must continue our fight towards pay equity and close the wage gap once and for all. And ever-optimists, Latinas are confident that we can get there.

Only days later, the Supreme Court would overturn a decision from the Fifth Circuit that severely limited Texas women, including 2.5 million Latinas, access to safe and high-quality reproductive care. It was a major victory for women across the country and it establishes a strong legal standard that will protect a woman's right to make her own health decisions without needless barriers.

At the heart of both cases were families and communities. At the heart of these decisions are millions of Latinas, and the role they will have in shaping the future of our country.

In 2014, a little more than half of Latinas recently polled in a survey we collaborated on with American Women and iAmerica, said they did not vote. This year, 81 percent said they are very likely to participate in November's election.

Latinas are often the gatekeepers in our communities and are the ones who are most likely to turn out and vote. In 2016, they're driven to participate by the desire to protect their families and will vote for candidates and policies they believe will help them and their children advance.

And the responsibility, that all of us hold so dear, of caring for our family is also a major cause of stress for Latinas. The polling indicates that Latinas are more likely than others to identify caring for their family, their family's health, balancing caretaking and career responsibilities, and having reliable and affordable child care as big concerns and sources of stress in their lives.

This is of great concern to our community because as Latinas, we still only earn 55 cents to every dollar earned by our white male counterparts. The survey finds that 31 percent of Latinas and 45 percent of Latina millennials earn less than $15 an hour.

It's difficult for anyone to balance life when there is uncertainty about our economic future, a future where Latinos are the second largest and youngest Americans. We must continue our fight towards pay equity and close the wage gap once and for all. And ever-optimists, Latinas are confident that we can get there.

This year's election is a referendum on our country's future. We as Americans have too much at stake to sit it out.

Nearly 60 percent of Latinas surveyed said they are optimistic that their financial situation will improve during the next five years, higher than any other group. But we won't get to where we need to be if we decide not to mobilize ourselves and our families to go to the voting booth in November.

We will no longer let others decide for us on the issues that matter most. Nearly 8 out of 10 Latinas say they would be "much more likely" to support a candidate who supports pay equity, college affordability, and reproductive health policies. And more than 90 percent support immigration reform and citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Unlike ever before, we will have a say in the future of our country, one that is reflective of our community because not only will Latinas impact who goes to the White House, but we will decide who sits on our school boards, city councils, state legislatures, and yes, the Supreme Court too.

This year's election is a referendum on our country's future. We as Americans have too much at stake to sit it out.