Viewpoints

Latino youth will shape the future, but only if we make a big mark on 2020

As the power of young Latinos comes into full view in the 2020 election, California is witnessing a historic shift.

During the 2018 midterm elections, Latino voters ages 18-24 turned out in record numbers. Places like the Central Valley saw more than a 200 percent voter increase compared to 2014. Because of this engagement, Latino youth helped remake the political map of California’s congressional delegation.

Now the momentum swings to two of the most critical civic engagement events of the decade: the 2020 Census and the 2020 presidential election.

As the 2020 Census ramps up, the challenge facing us is how to reach the more than five million Latinos living in hard-to-count neighborhoods across the state. Many of them are “Dreamers” attending colleges and universities who yearn to build a sustainable future for themselves and their families.

However, an accurate count could be jeopardized as President Donald Trump pushes for the addition of a citizenship question on the Census.

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According to the Census Bureau, adding such a question would result in lower response rates among non-citizens. This would also result in an increased cost to the government of at least $27.5 million for additional phone calls, home visits and other follow-up efforts to reach them.

The question now lies in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments yesterday. As we wait for the decision, we must not let fear suppress our constitutional rights to count all residents of the U.S. Everyone must be counted to accurately allocate political representation and federal dollars to the states.

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Christian Arana Courtesy photo

To secure their futures, Latino youth must become engaged on this topic and find ways to count one another. It can begin at home, where they can become informed about the importance of the census and help their family members fill out the form. The Latino Community Foundation was recently selected to lead outreach efforts for census in California. We will work with community health clinics and Latino small businesses to conduct outreach. We’ll also run public service announcements on radio, television stations and social media.

In the 2020 presidential election, Latino youth will play a key role in the outcome. There are over 7.7 million eligible Latino voters in the state according to the Pew Research Center, a significant voting bloc of which nearly half are millennials. Latino youth will have another opportunity to make a resounding impact on an election with their voices and votes.

The Latino youth vote must not be taken for granted during the next presidential election. California has one of the earliest primaries, in March 2020, and all candidates must invest heavily in California and not take it for granted.

We must double down on investing in our youth to ensure they have their say in the political process. This means registering Latino youth to vote, providing voter education and engaging them in the issues they care about, such as higher education, jobs and the Green New Deal.

The Latino Community Foundation will ensure that everyone will vote and be counted in the census by convening the Latino Policy Summit today in Sacramento. It’s the largest gathering of Latino leaders across the state, with young leaders such as state Sen. Melissa Hurtado scheduled to address the audience on these important topics.

Our mission is clear: We must prepare now for two of the most significant acts of civic engagement, the 2020 elections and the census. Both will have profound effects on our community for the next decade.

Latino youth can become the heroes of our democracy. If we vote, and if we all fill out the census, we can send a resounding message that we are here to stay. And in the process, our democracy can truly become representative for all.

Christian Arana is Latino Community Foundation policy director in San Francisco.
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