opinion

OPINION: Don't ignore the Latinx community, especially in Nevada



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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks Feb. 17 during a Mi Familia Vota event at Cardenas Market in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tribune News Service

As the 2020 Democratic primary moves toward its second month, the candidates have moved campaign resources from frigid New Hampshire to sunny Nevada. The caucuses, scheduled for Saturday, will be the second-to-last contest before Super Tuesday, when 13 states, along with American Samoa and Democrats living abroad, cast their ballots.

Nevada's caucuses will offer a better gauge of support from minorities, particularly the Latinx community, and lay the groundwork for grassroots organizing among minorities for the general election.

But it seems as though this opportunity could be lost as Nevada's primary and Latinx voters receive insufficient attention from the rest of the country. Sadly, Nevada has had scarce polling and significantly fewer mentions in news media than other early primary states, including South Carolina, which votes after the state.

Latinx voices must not be ignored as we navigate our way through the Nevada caucuses. American voters and political commentators should watch Nevada closely and take note of what Latinx voters communicate at the ballot box.

Nevada is a majority-minority state, with 52% of its population being a member of a racial minority group. The Latinx community makes up the largest bulk of these individuals, with an estimated 29% of the population, greater than the nationwide average of 18%. It’s a far cry from the 91% white Iowa and the 94% white New Hampshire.

We cannot expect the Latinx voters and activists to pay attention to the 2020 election if the issues that affect their communities most aren’t talked about.

Immigration is one key issue that has been discussed too little. A 2018 Pew Research Center report found Hispanic Americans considered immigration and the economy to be the most important problems facing the country.

Evelyn Sanchez, vice president of external communications for Latinos Unidos at IU, said immigration policy is a big factor in choosing the candidate she supports.

The lack of conversation surrounding immigration reform during the Democratic primary race is a problem. Wednesday's debate in Nevada was the first time the issue was mentioned on the debate stage since mid-December. The issue needs to be debated in depth and more often as candidates compare policy and specify what they are exactly going to do about the complicated immigration process.

Candidates should do more to raise the issues.

“The Democratic presidential candidates criticize Trump’s policies on immigration and how he demonizes immigration, but immigration reform is not one of their key issues of the campaign," wrote columnist Alejandro Urrutia in the Concord Monitor.

Beyond immigration, Latinx issues in general are often left out of the mainstream conversation in policymaking. 

I think back to the Feb. 7 New Hampshire debate when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gave an impassioned speech about how Democrats must talk about race issues other than criminal justice.

"We need to start having race-conscious laws," she said. Race-conscious laws are designed to close racial gaps, according to the Brookings Institution.

This is a great step in the right direction.

However, our race-conscious conversation must include more than the hot button issues of criminal justice and immigration that have captured the most mainstream attention.

Sanchez gave the example of English as a second language education. Many Latinx people in her generation do not know English, she said. Sanchez argued that English as a second language classes are important for increasing accessibility for children of immigrants in education.

This is an important topic that has received little discussion on the national stage, just like many Latinx issues. The blackout of Nevada is a frustrating reminder of Latinx how concerns become sidelined.

Iowa and New Hampshire have sucked out all the oxygen. We need candidates to do more than just speak Spanish on stage and give a few minutes to discuss the issue. Candidates should be recharging activism among Latinx people nationwide. 

Pay attention to Nevada. Hopefully a more representative America will shape the primary, candidates will tackle the wide-ranging sphere of Latinx issues better, and young social activists will become galvanized all the way to the Indiana primary.

Well, at least I can hope.

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