The Latinx Research Center at UC Berkeley held a roundtable discussion Friday about the role of the Latinx community in the upcoming election.
Speakers at the event included California Sen. María Elena Durazo, campus alumnus and former California Assemblymember Luis Alejo, campus ethnic studies professor Laura Pérez, co-founder of the Lincoln Project Mike Madrid and former President Pro Tem of the California State Senate Kevin de León.
Moderated by Ignacio Rodriguez, a former visiting scholar at the Latinx Research Center who serves on the California Institute for Rural Studies board of directors, the speakers discussed issues ranging from the effects of the digital divide on distance learning for Latinx children to predictions for the upcoming election.
“We have to learn from the ways we’ve won and the ways we’ve lost,” Durazo said. “I’m really hopeful we can elect not only more Latinos, but Latinos who really fight for our community.”
Rodriguez began the webinar by asking each of the speakers what organizations and experiences had fueled their careers. Many cited Proposition 187 from 1994, which aimed to restrict undocumented immigrants’ access to public education and health care, among other services.
The ballot passed but was struck down in court after substantial pushback, and it was ultimately repealed.
“Many of us as teenagers took to the streets and organized walkouts during Prop. 187, and that became the catalyst for many young leaders,” Alejo said.
According to Alejo, 33% of Latinos voted for Prop. 187, and he predicted that a similar portion of the current Latinx population will vote for the reelection of President Donald Trump, which is “nothing new.”
The vast majority of Latinx voters in Arizona, Florida and Texas, however, will vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, Alejo added.
“I do get upset when I hear stereotypical derogatory explanations, like it somehow must be a macho thing between Latino men and voting Trump,” Alejo said. “Latinos are going to be a key deciding factor in some of these states.”
De León said he hopes Latino votes will turn out in favor of the Democratic Party, citing Trump’s history of targeting the Latinx community by separating children from their parents at the border. De León also referenced Trump’s comments about the Latinx community being “rapists, thugs, murderers, people who have no strong work ethic” as a reason to vote blue.
According to Durazo, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed issues within the Latinx community, including a lack of health care and technological knowledge. Durazo added that Latinos should be demanding more out of their leaders, and Alejo echoed this sentiment.
“Our own party could do better,” Alejo said. “We know that with the digital divide, our children are being hit hardest by not having the right technology to attend digital classes. It not only impacts students’ education and careers of workers, it’s also how voters get their information. Certainly the government should be making that a priority next election.”