Across the state, Latino leaders united in urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a Latina or Latino lawmaker to the U.S. Senate, replacing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Seeking representation and a voice in government, politicians have banded together, speaking at news conferences in Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose this month.
San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco said Latinos were a major force in President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and need to be heard.
“In California, where nearly 15 million Latinos make up almost 40% of the population, the time is now for those numbers to be reflected by a voice of our very own in Washington, D.C.,” Carrasco said during a news conference at the Mexican Heritage Plaza Nov. 23.
Carrasco said essential workers serving on the front lines during COVID-19 are largely Latino and have not been adequately compensated for their sacrifices. Latino agricultural and service workers have helped keep this country afloat, she added.
“They deserve a leader who can speak directly to their needs,” Carrasco said. “They deserve a voice on the Senate floor.”
In its 170 years, California has never been represented by a Latino in the U.S. Senate.
Assemblymember Robert Rivas, (D-Hollister) also called on the governor to recognize the contributions of the Latino community.
Rivas said Latinos helped build the state of California, growing its food and contributing to its economy, art and culture. Rivas said Latinos own almost 25% of the state’s small businesses and make up about 54% of K-12 public school students.
“Yet these young people, who are the future of California, don’t see themselves represented at the highest levels of government,” Rivas said.
Rivas said immigrants and Latinos who contribute taxes, labor, energy and ideas, need a champion, a leader who reflects their population. He appealed to the governor to support them.
“Gov. Newsom, you have spent your career standing up for equality,” Rivas said. “…Break down this enormous barrier…send our very first Latino Senator to Washington, D.C.”
Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) represents a district that is about half Latino. He said the appointment of a Latino as U.S. Senator would make history and right historical wrongs.
As chair of the Labor Committee, Kalra learned the impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce. He said he heard powerful testimony from workers from meat processing plants, farm workers and fast-food workers, all of whom were Latino.
“They’re all suffering,” Kalra said. “COVID is exacerbating and making so clear the inequities in our state. So clear, it cannot be ignored. In the Bay Area, three of the ZIP codes around us are the most heavily impacted with COVID infections and COVID deaths.”
Some lawmakers, including Morgan Hill Mayor pro-tem Yvonne Martinez Beltran, said the governor selecting a Latino lawmaker would reverse anti-immigrant policies. A Latino senator could prioritize protections and a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, as well as reunite children separated from their parents.
Milpitas Councilmember Karina Dominguez called on Newsom to show the same strength of character he asked of her in housing the homeless in Milpitas.
“You came to my hometown of Milpitas and inspired me to do the right thing,” Dominguez said, “…to stand before most vulnerable families, our unhoused populations that are composed of people who look like us because the privilege is not there for us. Today, I am asking you to stand on the right side of history. To stand on your own convictions.”
Latinos are the nation’s largest minority group — making up almost 20% of the population — and California has the largest Latino population of any state.
“It’s time to affirmatively move the Latino community forward the way the Latino community moves California’s economy forward and the nation’s economy forward,” said Serena Alvarez, a board member of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “The Latino community is a vital partner in moving policy, politics and our economy and strengthening the fabric of our nation.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]