In an exclusive interview with LPO, Senior Policy Manager, Eduardo Garcia, discussed the work that Latino Community Foundation (LCF) does in building a movement of civically engaged philanthropic leaders, investing in Latino-led organizations, and increasing political participation of Latinos in California.
How does the Latino Community Foundation empower Latino representation and promote the Latino vote in California?
We manage the largest network of Latino philanthropists in the country. These philanthropists help fund Latino-led nonprofits in California and provide services and educational information to the Latino community in different parts of the state.
We are dedicated to ensuring that NGOs have the resources they need to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, in the philanthropic world only 1.1% of funding goes directly to Latino communities. It is a very big problem because Latinos represent 18% of the population. Our goal is also to promote civic participation in the Hispanic community.
How important is the Latino vote in California? Do you expect a large turnout of Latino voters in the recall election on September 14th?
In California we are 15.6 million Latinos living in the state. We are a huge social and political force, so it is very important that Latinos participate in elections. Last year, we organized a state campaign to boost participation in the 2020 Census.
The participation of the Latino community in elections, in any civic process- like the Census, the midterms, as well as this recall election that is scheduled for September 14th- is crucial. It is very important that Latinos participate and that is what we try to do through our programs.
The recall election is a good example of that. All registered and active voters in California will receive their ballot by mail and our job at the Foundation is to educate the public so that people return their ballots on time and that their voices are heard. In terms of the data the Census Bureau released last week, we know that there are 15.6 million Latinos living in California.
We know that much of the growth that occurred within the state was caused by Latinos. The political force of Latinos continues to grow each year. What is lacking is more education and more general information so that all voters in California can go out and vote.
This special election, and frankly every election, is always going to have huge consequences for the Latino community. In California, Latinos were heavily impacted by the pandemic, both in terms of healthcare and economically. At the Foundation, we do not support or endorse any candidate because we are a non-profit organization, but we can educate the public so that every citizen has the appropriate information when they vote at the polls.
Are you concerned that the redistricting process could affect Latino representation in California?
Redistricting is a process that is currently happening all over the country. California has a very interesting process because state residents can participate in how electoral district boundaries are drawn at various levels of government. This year is the second time in the state's history that residents have been able to participate in the process, regardless of their immigration status. Previously, politicians decided and had the power the define electoral boundaries, like in other states in the country.
But in California it is led by residents. There is a commission made up of fourteen residents that have commissioners, and they request the participation of Californians. At the Foundation, we are taking many measures to ensure that Latinos are participating in defining or helping the commission define the districts to ensure they have equal representation in the next ten years.
All they need is to live in California and they can be involved in how these districts are drawn and this will obviously have a very big impact for the next ten years. It's going to define the political power of Latinos in California.
A few days ago, we were in Sonoma, an area badly affected by wildfires. There are farmers in Sonoma working to produce the red wines that we all drink when we are having dinner with our families. Unfortunately, they did not have the necessary financial support to survive the pandemic last year. So, we went to promote voter participation in Sonoma, to give a voice to the farmers who are working within this industry and who usually don't participate in elections.
What are the most important issues for Latinos in California?
We did a survey to understand the most important issues for Latinos in California and we know that they prioritize jobs, they want job opportunities so they can cover the high cost of living in state. They need jobs and that is something that always stands out as a very important issue, as well as access to healthcare.
According to this survey, Latinos think that the cost of health care is very high and that it increases annually. Another issue that also often stands out is immigration, because during the Trump administration we saw many attacks on the rights of migrants.
We try to tie these issues to elections to promote participation.
What does the Latino community in the state think of President Joe Biden's immigration policy?
After several years of attacks on the immigrant community, I think that under the Biden administration there is more hope than there was before, even during the pandemic. We have heard from residents that they feel more optimistic and hopeful that change can happen. For us, it is very important to cultivate that hope because it will increase participation and help achieve immigration reform at a national level.
It always impresses me because for those of us who follow immigration closely, we know that it is a very complicated issue and that members of Congress have been trying to change the laws for many years. And I believe that there is hope that change will come.
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