The Struggle of Voting for the Latinx American Population

Panelists discussed their concerns for the upcoming election when it comes to Latinx representation

On Thursday, Oct. 15, a panel consisting of Latinx Americans gathered to discuss the challenges and the importance of voting in the 2020 Presidential Election.

The presentations took place over Zoom and were open to students of North Dakota State University and Concordia to attend. This panel consisted of distinguished and influential Latinx members, from the Fargo community and around the United States. These four panelists each voiced their concerns for the upcoming elections and discussed problems throughout the country, and within the state.

The problems discussed are preventing whole demographics from having their vote counted in the 2020 presidential election. By going out, talking to friends and family, and voting, the Latinx/Hispanic communities can have their voices heard.

Maria L. Guerra, activist and author of “The Bilingual Realestate Bridge” spoke about the struggles and frustration when trying to vote in the American polls. Guerra’s main concerns were the instructions that are available to the Latinx communities on how to vote. The two-page instruction pamphlets are poorly translated and are impossible for Spanish speakers to understand. 

Guerra said, “We don’t vote, because we don’t understand.” She has also voiced these concerns elsewhere, “I have written 132 emails… to everyone I could think of and no one answered,” Guerra said. By not having equal access to voting instructions the Latinx/Hispanic population voices are not being heard and the problems they are facing are not being solved. 

Merari Runalcara Garcia, a teacher and magister in international relations, expressed how protesting is crucial in giving the Latinx community a voice. “I was not able to actually express my voice through the vote, I was able to express my voice through protests,” Garcia said. He explains that the Latinx voices must be heard even if they do not have the right to vote. 

Garcia also voiced concerns saying, “The Latino vote is taken for granted,” explaining how the Presidential candidates for the upcoming elections have not made the Latinx vote a priority. “One party is actively aggressive towards us, and the other just simply isn’t there.” This is influencing the Latinx vote in the upcoming election.

Daniel Morales, assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and a historian, discussed the problems immigrants are facing in Virginia. Immigration policies in Virginia have become more regulated since the Terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. This event pushed the state into a conservative position and caused a strict shift for their immigration policy.

 As a result, the state has limited immigrants from receiving ID’s. This affects how immigrants live their daily lives. “If you cannot be outside without fear that something is going to happen to you, you’re not going to participate in civil life,” Morales said.

This reform consisted of a decrease in driver licenses distributed within the past 15 years. Immigrants who can not receive drivers license are more susceptible to arrests and deportations.

Yolanda Arauza, historian and professor, talked about her family’s daily experience with racism and segregation living in the United States. “A rigid racialized hierarchy kept native-born Mexican Americans in their place and allowed for very limited opportunities,” Arauza said. Arauza believes that the current administration is taking away civil rights and reversing the reform that was accomplished in the 1960s. 

Arauza is also concerned with felons, and their right to vote. Felons that have been convicted on drug charges causes a “disproportionate number of Chicanos, of African Americans and Native American men that are no longer able to vote,” Arauza said. These long-term prison sentences are prohibiting certain minorities from voting in the polls. 

“When you take a people’s language, you take customs and their traditions, you take their voice, you’ve destroyed a population,” Arauza said.

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