OPINION

Opinion: We need to vote down the whole ballot to make a difference for Latinos

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 2:  Supporters for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are silhouetted in a large American flag at a rally following Super Tuesday on March 2, 2016 in New York City. The former secretary of state won seven states on Tuesday, giving her a lead in the democratic primary.(Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 2: Supporters for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are silhouetted in a large American flag at a rally following Super Tuesday on March 2, 2016 in New York City. The former secretary of state won seven states on Tuesday, giving her a lead in the democratic primary.(Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)  (2016 Getty Images)

On Tuesday, we all know that there are presidential elections. But there is a message that all Latinos need to hear: we must vote down the whole ballot.

After two long years of this presidential campaign, everyone knows about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And after a campaign in which Mr. Trump has frequently scapegoated Latinos and immigrants with words like "criminals" and "rapists," it is clear that Latinos are going out to vote in massive numbers for Mrs. Clinton. That's how it should be.

So for those who live in states with elections for the Senate, like Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Illinois, or Florida, it is essential to vote this year for respect and dignity for our community and make our voices heard in the Senate elections.

- Javier H. Valdés

But, as a community, we must also focus on the rest of the critical races across the United States. This year, there are key elections for the federal Senate, the House of Representatives and state legislatures. Often in the past, Latino voters in presidential years who have voted for president have not continued down the rest of the ballot to vote for their congressional representatives and state legislators. This year, that has to change.

First, the U.S. Senate is critical to achieve immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants in this country. If the Senate remains in Republican hands, it will be very difficult to pass immigration reform before 2020. The same logic applies to issues like raising the minimum wage and investing more in public education and affordable housing — if the Democrats do not control the Senate, it will be very difficult to advance the priorities of working families.

So for those who live in states with elections for the Senate, like Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Illinois, or Florida, it is essential to vote this year for respect and dignity for our community and make our voices heard in the Senate elections.

Second, all voters will be electing our representatives in the House of Representatives this year. In recent years, the Republicans in control of this chamber of Congress have blocked immigration reform and other issues such as gun control, equal pay for women, and efforts to combat discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Make sure to study the candidates and then vote.

Third, it is absolutely critical that Latinos continue down the whole ballot and vote for our state legislators. In many cases, state government has the most impact on our lives. On issues such as public school funding, college access, infrastructure, affordable housing, and more, state government decides how and how much to support our communities.

In my state of New York, I have watched how a State Senate, controlled by Republicans, has blocked the passage of the New York DREAM Act, which would open state financial aid for college to all, regardless of immigration status; how the Republican Senators made it harder to win an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, because they listened more to big business that working families; and how conservative Senators in the suburbs have taken millions in campaign contributions from the real estate industry to prevent stronger rent laws.

That's why, when I go to vote on Nov. 8, I will be voting down the whole ballot. I urge you to do the same — voting not only for president, but also for Congress and your state representatives.

On Tuesday, just remember three words: the whole ballot.

Javier H. Valdés is the co-executive director of Make the Road Action, an immigrant rights organization. Follow his work: @MaketheRoadAct @javierhvaldes. 

 

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