Growing up in West Texas, my mother taught me that if you worked hard enough, anything was possible. We believed in the American Dream - the idea that success was in reach, you just had to earn it. We felt confident that there was a better tomorrow for the next generation.
Yet, just recently The New York Times reported that only 64 percent of Americans would say that they still believed in the American Dream. This number, the paper reports, is the "lowest result in roughly two decades." One man interviewed noted that, "the decks have been stacked against not only the lower class but also the lower middle class."
These statistics are not surprising in the face of the large economic and social divides found within our country. As the lead up to November's midterm elections proved, our country has increasingly become politically polarized. We have ushered in representatives that go against some of the core values of the Latino community and who continue to pass reforms that oftentimes do not take our community into account.
I can understand why the American Dream no longer seems to be in reach for the many Americans, including those in the Latino community, who feel as if those in Washington only listen to a select few. President Obama has taken decisive action on immigration reform to keep families together and to allow millions to come out of the shadows. But we still have politically charged lawsuits such as the State of Texas v. United States of America,which aims to take this progress away by making false claims that the President's executive actions and Department of Homeland Security's directive on deferred action suspends the enforcement of our country's immigration laws. We need lawmakers that think through solutions to problems, not just figure out ways to repeal solutions.
The same goes for education. The recently passed $1.1 trillion spending bill includes cutting $303 million for Pell Grants, a program that helps to provide financial aid for an estimated 51 percent of Latino undergraduates. We should be creating more opportunities for education - a key issue for Latino voters - not taking them away.
Despite these issues, I remain optimistic. If November's election teaches us anything, it is that while this is a setback for the many who hoped to bring change, it is not the end of the American Dream. As a community, there are more reasons than ever to get out to the polls and work to elect those who reflect Latino values. Latinos need leaders who are advancing policies that make it easier to once again believe in hope and opportunity.
The Latino Victory Project is focused on supporting and electing candidates from our community - such as Secretary of State-electeds Nellie Gorbea and Alex Padilla as well as Representative-elect Ruben Gallego and Representative Raul Ruiz. These are the leaders who are willing to listen and who are ready to fight for what is right. They are the next generation of Americans who stand proudly to usher in a changing America rather than attempting to push immigrants and the Latino community to the sidelines.