Joe Biden said to a reporter interviewing him, “if you have a problem figuring out whether you are for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.” Many Democrats believe something similar about Latinos. There is a widely held view in the media that Latinos should vote Democratic.
This week, actor John Leguizamo said that “Latinos for Trump is like cockroaches for the Raid.” Millions of Latinos who see the current president as the best option for governing this country are against Leguizamo. According to the polls, what matters most to Latinos when it comes to deciding whom to vote for is the economy, an issue on which Trump has already proven to be effective.
To discuss the Latino vote in the United States today, we spoke with Jesús Márquez, commissioner of the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative.
Vanessa Vallejo: Biden once said that if a Black person didn’t vote Democrat, he wasn’t Black, and something similar is the belief about Latinos. Many Democrats believe they have the Latino vote secured. Is that a mistaken perception, or are most Latinos in the United States really Democrats?
Jesús Márquez: No, no. Of course, it’s a very wrong perception. Joe Biden and the Democrats think they have won the Latino vote. They think they own the Latino vote. They imagine that Hispanics in the United States all think alike, that we are single-minded, and that’s not the case.
We have different cultures, different thoughts, different issues that we consider important, some more than others. What we could agree on, and all the surveys of the Latino or Hispanic vote in the United States show it, is that the main issue of importance to Latinos is the economy, economic welfare, job creation.
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That’s the number one issue. The economy is the main reason why we elect our leaders. That economy should be based on what it has always been based on the United States: free trade, free enterprise, less regulation, less taxation, among other issues.
Vanessa Vallejo: Let’s talk a little bit about President Trump. It’s quite a common perception that the president is a racist, that he doesn’t like Latinos. You work with him and are a Latino leader. In your opinion, beyond the speeches and regrettable phrases, that may have hurt many, what does the president really think about Latinos?
Jesús Márquez: No. President Donald Trump has a very positive view of Hispanics/Latinos. As far as I know, as a Hispanic, I have been in several meetings with him, in small attendance meetings. And I have been in front, next to him, at the table with him. The perception I have is that he is not a racist person. Whenever we have been in meetings, he has listened to us. That’s my personal perception.
On the other hand, his policies speak more of him than the expressions I just mentioned because he has been the best president for Hispanics/Latinos in the United States in decades. I will give you this example: he has achieved the lowest unemployment for Hispanics since the United States has kept these records; also the highest homeownership in a decade for Hispanics; the highest opening of Hispanic businesses, specifically for Hispanic women, in a decade. All thanks to the policies of President Donald Trump.
So, on the one hand, on the personal side, I have seen that he has been very respectful of Hispanics/Latinos. On the other hand, his policies have benefited us. The president is not a racist. In fact, he has denounced racist groups. Just a few weeks ago, per the orders of President Donald Trump, the group “Ku Klux Klan” (KKK) was listed as a terrorist group and is going to be persecuted as such. So the president is not a racist.
Vanessa Vallejo: While that point in the economy is very important, and as you say, the data shows how relevant it is to Latinos, there is also another important issue that is migration, and I think that is the issue that Donald Trump’s enemies have used most to their disadvantage. Regarding migration, what can you say about how the president has handled that issue?
Jesús Márquez: President Donald Trump agrees that there should be a migration based on merit and security. Firstly, there are the beneficiaries of “DACA” (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), who are the young people who are known as the dreamers, for whom President Trump has made important proposals.
For example, last year, he proposed to legalize, and not just legalize, but give a path to citizenship to all those DACA recipients, not just the current 750,000 DACA recipients but went further to say: there are two million young people who would qualify for DACA even though many of them do not yet have it, but they would still enter into this plan that President Trump was proposing to make a regulation of their legal status.
However, the Democrats did not want the plan because, for them, it is more important to keep this migration issue in limbo, and thus have, as they say, a political “ace up their sleeve” to attack the president.
The advantage is that the Hispanic/Latino people in the United States realize all of this and really what we said at the beginning: the number one issue for Latinos, as shown by the polls, is the economy, second and third: education and health, and fourth or fifth is immigration, which is important but not on the top of the list of most important things.
We are back to the same thing: Donald Trump is the president who can come up with important immigration reform and a change of security on the border because nothing will be achieved if there is no security on the border, and that is where the wall and everything that goes with it comes from. Obviously, the wall is not the only thing, but there are also other elements, other mechanisms, such as more agents.
Vanessa Vallejo: I am stressing on this issue because I think the media uses it a lot and emphasizes it to harm Trump: the president has been labeled by the media as the cruelest and the one who has deported the most people in the history of the United States. On this point, what are the numbers or facts about migrants deported by this administration, and of course, what are the facts about what Obama did about it?
Jesús Márquez: I give you concrete and hard facts. The president who has deported the most undocumented Latinos from this country has been Barack Obama, even though the media, as you mentioned, has demonized and made President Trump the number one enemy of Hispanics specifically on immigration issues. Those are lies; they are all unsubstantiated and false claims.
If we look at the numbers, we see that while Obama deported 3.5 million people in his eight years in office, during President Donald Trump’s four years, only 675,000 have been deported, a figure that is far below Obama’s in his first four years and of which, most are people who have a criminal record (some have gang ties) or who had previous deportation orders. Those deportation orders come months or even years in advance. Many of the people who were not deported because of a criminal record were deported because they already had deportation orders from the Obama era.
In summary, the numbers of people who have been deported during this administration have been very low compared to those of the past administration. Additionally, the majority of those deported have been people with criminal records.
At the border, however, security work has been done to prevent more people from coming into the country illegally, and a large percentage of the people who have been stopped at the border in recent months have been people with criminal records. There have also been situations of insecurity at the border, threatening the safety of the migrants themselves, who are often harassed by criminal groups that come to the border in an attempt to cross illegally.
Vanessa Vallejo: You were talking about education and how important it is to Latinos and Hispanics. What is Donald Trump doing about it? What are his plans for it if he wins again?
Jesús Márquez: On the issue of education, mainly, there is a wide acceptance by the Hispanic/Latino people in the United States of what is known as School Choice or school options. President Donald Trump supports school choice while Joe Biden and the Democrats are in total disagreement because unions are putting a lot of pressure on Joe Biden to avoid this.
What is School Choice or School Options? It’s allowing parents to take their children to the school that best suits them, the one they feel is most appropriate for them, regardless of whether it’s a private, public, or charter school, and to have the funds that are already going to the students follow the student to the school the parents choose.
This is something that has been implemented at the state level, in a very important way in Florida, and has helped many Hispanic/Latino students who previously went to very poor schools in terms of school or academic excellence, are now in schools with higher academic achievement, and this has served to put students from poor neighborhoods in Florida on par with students from wealthier neighborhoods.
This is something very important for Hispanics/Latinos, including, recently, the President appointed, or created through an executive order, a commission under the “Hispanic American Prosperity Initiative.”
This initiative and this group of commissioners will be dedicated to implementing policies and ideas to promote education and the economy of Hispanics in the United States. They will work closely with the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of Small Business, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Housing. These five departments or federal agencies are going to be working with this commission that is exclusively for Hispanics. I know this because I am part of this commission. And we are going to be working very hard to promote school options, more ideas, and to promote the plans that already exist so that our Hispanics and Latinos can take more advantage of all these programs.
Vanessa Vallejo: To conclude, let’s go a little deeper into this topic because you are the commissioner of the “White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative.” What are the key issues that will be addressed if President Trump is re-elected?
Jesús Márquez: We have two committees within the commission that are going to address two key issues. First, issues related to small business development, new businesses, and thus more jobs. And the other branch is going to be education, specifically based on what I just mentioned about School Choice, and short career technical education or vocational education, focused on learning certain technical careers.
This is something that is done in other countries such as Germany where the education department has agreements with the private sector so that students who do not want to go to a four or five-year university can, from high school onwards, take technical courses so that when they leave school, they immediately start working in companies that help them apply practically they have learned in the books earlier. That way, students advance more quickly to obtain a very well paid career. Examples of this type of technical careers are welders or advanced mechanics. All these types of short careers, which here in the United States are very well paid, are something that is lacking in our Latino communities.
Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editor-in-chief of El American. Economist. Podcaster. Political and economic analysis of America. Colombian exile in the United States // Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editora en jefe de El American. Economista. Podcaster. Análisis político y económico de América. Colombiana exiliada en EE. UU.