originally published in El Diario; translation below.
2009 was a big year for Latinos. We’ve had some setbacks, including an economic crisis in which the unemployment rate among Latino workers is almost thirteen percent. We also learned that 41% of our high school girls fail to graduate on time, if at all, and that they have the highest teen pregnancy rate of any racial or ethnic group.
But, we’ve had some enormous accomplishments. Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination and confirmation to be a Supreme Court Justice can and should be a source of pride for all Latinos. Latinos are also at the helm of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and Department of Labor.
We’ve also emerged victorious in the face of threats to our equal and fair participation in the life of the country. The Supreme Court rebuffed a carefully-orchestrated attack on arguably the country’s most successful piece of civil rights legislation, the Voting Rights Act. The Act prohibits states and local governments from enacting voting practices that discriminate based on race, and has been instrumental in breaking down voting barriers and bringing fair political representation to Latinos all over the country.
Those victories are important because large challenges loom ahead for us in 2010, especially in the area of immigration reform, and the anti-Latino bias that will accompany that issue. The 2010 elections will provide us with the opportunity to voice our concerns on important issues, but we must be politically involved. Two national reforms would help us translate our numbers into political influence, Voter Registration Modernization and the Democracy Restoration Act.
Voter Registration Modernization is an automated system of registering eligible consenting citizens from existing government lists, it could enfranchise the up to 65 million eligible Americans, including many Latinos, who are not currently registered to vote.
The Democracy Restoration Act allows American citizens returning to their communities from prison to vote in federal elections, encouraging these persons to become invested and involved in the well-being of their communities. While it is hard to say how many of the four million people living and working in the community who cannot vote because of a past criminal conviction are Latinos, we can expect those numbers to be sizeable, given that Latinos comprise up to 20% of the incarcerated population. These two reforms will allow us to be well-armed against the predicted and repeated barrage of misinformation and hate.
So with our setbacks making us more resilient and committed, our accomplishments making us louder and prouder, our victories making us stronger, let’s use our potential to make great gains for our communities and country in 2010.