Iowa is the epicenter of the presidential elections at least until February 1 when the Iowa caucus will take place. This distinction gives Iowa residents the opportunity to hear from the candidates themselves where they stand on the issues of importance to us as they try to win our support come caucus time.
While Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States in Iowa we are still a small percentage but large enough to possibly swing results in this highly contested race.
But when it comes to politicians it seems that they strongly believe that the only issue that concerns Latinos is immigration and as long as they promise some kind of immigration reform Latino voter automatically will give their vote to such candidate. The truth is that while immigration is a very important issue for Latinos, it is certainly not the only concern we have. As any other American citizen out there Latinos also worry about such issues as economy, health care, education, jobs, environment and etc. Below Hola Iowa would like to offer to you some comments from different members of Latino community from all over Iowa and their thoughts on what they, as voters, are most concerned about.
First we wanted to know what the some of the most important issues are for Latino Voters.
“I am not sure that I can answer what issues other Latinos are concerned about, probably many of the same things as others, how to provide for the health and well-being of their family-schools, food, jobs, health insurance, providing opportunities and education for their children (college tech schools etc..) and how to pay for it, and feeling comfortable in the town they live in. For me, I am most concerned about student debt, opportunity for Latinos in positions of power and reducing the day-to-day discrimination produced by media and politicians in Iowa,” Jason Daniel Ulloa from Iowa City said.
For Christian Ucles from Des Moines the top three issues he is concerned about are access to education, health care and immigration.
“Access to education is the key and important issue in the Latino community today. Whether that includes our undocumented brothers & sisters or 3rd generation (Latinos). We know that the number one way to combat poverty in America is access to an Education,” Ucles explained one of his priorities.
Rosa Mendoza from Muscatine is the director at Diversity Services Center of Iowa and she believes that the top three issues that are important for her are immigration, employment and health care.
“I also want to include school tuition. I do believe that immigration is one of the most important issues affecting many of our families, friends and neighbors. I have heard many of our clients complaining about the president not following through with immigration reform and they are disappointed. But with younger voters it’s will be about school tuition and employment,” she explained.
Rita Vargas from Davenport who is also the Scott County clerk explained: “The top issues to me, as a Latina are jobs, College Debt and the Environment. Without high paying jobs for the young people entering the workforce it makes it difficult to pay back the college loans. We need to make college affordable again to middle income families and not burden these young families with a lifetime of debt.”
Besides asking Latinos about their top issues as a voter, we also wanted to have their input on the fact that most of the Latino voters are younger than 30 and that means their choices might be slightly different.
“My understanding is that in general under 30 kids are more liberal, they are looking more at workers rights, college loans, and political leaders that are not maintaining the status quo,” Jason Daniel-Ulloa told.
Juanita Zavala, who recently was elected to Ottumwa School board gave her point of view as well: “Latinos and voters in general under 30 tend to vote Dem. and unfortunately, millennials do not make up a high percentage of the people who vote. It’s a real shame because I think everyone should exercise their right to vote.”
No one can really tell how things will change in future as more Latinos are becoming eligible to vote, but one thing for sure there will be changes. Juanita Zavala believes: “I feel that more and more Latinos will register and exercise their voting rights. Right now it is about registering voters and educating them on the process and learning about the candidates before voting. I think it’s important because only then will our voices be heard. The Latino population in Iowa continues to grow and will definitely play a major role in future elections.”
While Christian Ucles assures that instead of waiting for more Latinos to start voting there is a lot of work to be done to get more Latinos to participate.
“We need not to wait until we become a majority of the minority populations in the country to seek political representation. We must work now to create the infrastructure to train our community in how to participate in civil discourse, identify leaders to encourage them and provide help for them in efforts to run for office and achieve electoral victories from office ranging at the local, county and state level,” he explained.
Rita Vargas believes good changes are coming.
“As we are slowly seeing more Latino or foreign born elected officials coming to the table to with a voice for their constituents. This is a good change and helps other immigrant assimilate and understand our laws and ways of governing,” Vargas said.
Many politicians seem to believe that there is nothing else more important to Latinos than immigration. They are certainly wrong. Immigration is one of the most important issues, but it is not the only one. As citizens of United States of America, Latinos worry about all the same issues as every other American citizen does. And most certainly we are not a 1 issue voter.