With just over 48 hours since our elections, the reality that America is waking up to is that the Latino voting block is maturing and capable of flexing its power in states such as Florida and generally across the nation. NBC’s Chuck Todd put it this way: “a demographic time bomb that went off … the non-Cuban, Latino vote in central Florida is changing the state to being more of a battleground than expected.” Todd went on to say that we should be prepared to see the time bomb go off in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona next.
For many Latino leaders around the nation this line up of states is very familiar. They are the very states that have enacted the harshest anti-immigrant state laws in the name of national security. They are the states that have pushed through ID required voting laws to suppress the Latino vote. They are the states that are pushing to criminalize U.S. born Dreamers beaucase they are born of undocumented Latino immigrant parents regardless if the Supreme Court statement that being “undocumented” is not a crime. We Latino leaders are acutely aware that the night’s victory was not so much a vote against the backward policies of the Republican Party, but a vote to continue on a path of Latino inclusion in this country. The victory was a message delivered to the Presidential candidates and the nation that the days of leaving concerns of minorities off the “proverbial” table are over.
Analyzing election results, according to United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI), we will have more Latinos representing us at all levels of government than ever before, including 31 in Congress. In looking forward to President Obama second term, elected Latinos are ready at all levels of government to ensure that the administration continues its work with Healthcare reform, the economy, and keeping its promises to implement non-discriminatory immigration reform. It is my opinion that these issues are closely related and that this administration has the moderate tone and track record to develop solutions that work for all Americans. The challenge will be engaging both the House and the Senate to re-focus on the solutions Americans need rather than politics as usual. My hope is that both parties see that the more in tune they are with the needs of the new majority; the more likely they will be supported in re-elections campaigns.
One question put to bed by the election results is what will happen to healthcare reform. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be moving forward to full implementation, and by November 16th Connecticut will be selecting to set up its own health insurance exchange. While this will further offer health access to our un-insured, under-insured, and our working poor, Connecticut has already made great strides in making the ACA work for the people of Connecticut. In 2010, CT was the first state to opt-in to the Medicaid Expansion saving the State $53 million in the first year. In 2014, when the exchange will go live, CT will save much more as the Federal government pays for 100% of the state’s Medicaid Expansion.
As progressive as this seems I believe that health reform must extend to the needs of the undocumented. As it stands, because immigration remains un-addressed, the undocumented are still left out of the health exchange system. As we fix one system, inherently we will need to look across all systems to see where new policy may contradict older policy. Systematically leaving one very large pool of people (an estimated 12 million or more people) out of Healthcare Reform is in fact undermining the true purpose of the reform, a healthier American population.
Immigration reform will need to be addressed humanely and equally in respect to the same American promise offered to every other immigrant group since the Mayflower. Immigration reform will need to be looked as an opportunity and not as death pill to our economy. There can be balance in this conversation but only if discrimination is identified, neutralized, and removed from the equation. I believe that immigration reform will work to end the demonization of the immigrant, and reveal the incredible and critical workforce we have already in this country. There is an estimated 12 million undocumented residents waiting to fully contribute to this country, start businesses – add to innovation, beyond what artificial value the U.S. has constrained them to have which is just their raw, un-developed labor. The potential is there according to the Hamilton Report legal immigrants start NEW businesses and file patents at higher rate than U.S. –born citizens by nearly 30%. The potential is here, right now, to create new jobs through social reforms that the average American needs. By nurturing, and strengthening of all people, the U.S. will once again be the leader we know it can be in the world.
In hope that immigration reform leaves no one off the table, and healthcare reform make a healthier people a real possibility, our economy can be stronger in a real and sustainable way. The U.S. can once again become the world’s greatest economy while upholding our basic American inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Health Justice CT provides a public forum for conversations, ideas and collective action. The opinion expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of HealthJusticeCT or our funder.
Image credit: iStock Photos /Ryan Rodrick Beiler