This November we in the border community have an opportunity to raise our voices, demand a more equitable society, and quite frankly we can be a major block that helps change the balance of power in the United States Senate.
As a border resident I can’t remember a time where our votes meant so much, especially with the inhumane and draconian policies from the administration that continues to hurt our border communities.
So much is at stake in this mid-term election. Congressman Beto O’Rourke from El Paso is taking on Ted Cruz, where a Beto victory can mean a switch of power in the United States Senate.
With that said, there are a wide range of issues that when we go out and vote we should keep in mind. Here are some amongst many issues that we should keep in mind while we vote.
Major issues that come to mind include protecting Medicaid for the elderly and protecting those with pre-existing conditions. The administration along with the majority in congress have made it a clear option to eliminate these protections. Healthcare is a major issue in border communities having some of the highest levels of uninsured people in the country. In Hidalgo County, according to the Texas Medical Association, over 200,000 adults do not count with health insurance. According to data from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, nearly 100,000 of those adults currently uninsured would be covered by Medicaid expansion if implemented by the state of Texas. Current efforts by the administration and the majority in congress are proposing efforts to continue eliminating healthcare options for low-income and working-class Americans. In addition, the current president is using executive authority to undermine the Affordable Care Act and has nominated supreme court justices who are opposed to the ACA. In my opinion I agree with millions of my fellow Americans that we need single payer Medicare for all, and that healthcare is a right and not a privilege. People shouldn’t have to go broke because they get sick. Healthcare coverage for all can save millions of people from economic insecurity.
Labor unions and working-class Americans have also taken a hit from this administration and congress, most notably the president’s executive action that eliminated union representation during work hours for federal employees. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against labor unions, ruling that federal employees may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining. There is also common knowledge that many workers in our border community, alike many other workers from across the country, have been victims of wage theft. Too many people have experienced no pay for work, and the current administration has eliminated the Obama policy Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule. This policy prevented companies with a history of wage-theft from receiving any federal contracts. Those in power today in the White House and in Congress are not protecting the working class and the poor, and it’s become obvious that they will continue proposing anti-worker legislation if they continue to stay in power.
Our country needs to go the other direction and invest in workers who are the backbone of this economy. We need an economy that grows the middle class, not shrink it, and we can do that by increasing wages for workers across America. This wage increase includes raising to the minimum wage to keep up with the increasing cost of living. Minimum wage full time workers struggle to pay the rent and are faced with the decision to apply for food stamps because they don’t have enough money. Nobody that works full time should have to be asking for food stamps. They should be getting paid so they can live with dignity and provide for their families.
Perhaps the most known policy that had defined the president up to now is his Zero Tolerance policy and indefinite detention of Central American immigrants and asylum seekers. Here in the Rio Grande Valley we have been witness to perhaps one of the worst human right abuses that our government has committed in modern times as it separated thousands of children from their parents. Until today most of the families have yet to be reunited, and the government has shown little sign in having the capacity or the will to do the right thing and reunify these families. Furthermore, immigrants legally seeking asylum at the international bridges are being held back by federal agents who are following orders from the top. Not to stop there, Zero Tolerance policies are not the only policies that target immigrants. Deportations and ICE raids have scaled up under this administration, not only targeting people who are high level security threats, but also deporting a record number high of immigrants who pose no real danger to the United States.
Aside from all of that, the president continues to use DACA as a negotiating tool, and instead should be figuring out a solution for these young people who want to live their lives and contribute back to this country. His border wall proposal will cost the country billions upon billions of dollars, will do nothing to fix the broken immigration system, and will be a symbol of hate in our history. The border wall will also negatively impact the local border communities economically, will strip people of their private lands, and will have environmental and ecological impacts for generations to come.
What I believe we should do is support policies like Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a pathway to citizenship for millions that have built their life here and who pose no real danger to our society. Instead of proposing walls, we should enhance our international bridges with Mexico and strengthen our relationship with them. We should provide legal pathways to migrants who wish to come here to work so they won’t have to put their lives at risk when crossing illegally.
Ever since the nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education, we forecasted the animosity that this department would have towards our public education system. Many of us acknowledge the challenges and issues facing public schools today, and experts are working hard to propose new innovative solutions to best serve every student in this country. These solutions however have not been taken seriously by the current leadership at the Department of Education, and instead have focused in slashing public dollars for public education. In budget proposals presented earlier this year, Betsy DeVos aimed at redirecting $1 billion dollars to be spent on private school vouchers and other school choice plans. She also proposed cutting $3.6 billion for after school programs for needy children, and training for school teachers.
In addition to that, the administration went as far as proposing $200 billion cuts in financial aid and loans for low-income and working-class college students. This approach that the current administration is taking clearly targets low-income students, and first-generation students who’s most likely path to the middle-class is a college education. In the Rio Grande Valley, many of our high school students are low-income first-generation students who will be directly affected if these proposals ever get enacted.
As a former student that had his share of college loans, and as a financial aid specialist, I have seen enough and truly believe that the best way to fix the issue of student debt is Tuition Free College. Student’s shouldn’t have to be in deep debt because they want to go to college. Not only will it be good for students and their families as they climb out of poverty, it will be good for industries in need of people with higher level skills.
This list of issues that I detailed are only a few amongst many other issues that are being decided on right now. Equality for our LGBTQI community, who continue to experience high levels of hate crimes continue to organize politically and fight for their right to exist and to be treated equally under the law. Our environment is under threatening policies that are expediting the creation of pipelines, especially in minority communities who experience the negative effects of environmental crises.
We also have a criminal justice system that incarcerates more people per capita than any other developed nation in the world. We have a private prison industry that makes profit out of incarcerating people, a policy that is also implemented in the apprehensions of undocumented immigrants in this country. Nearly three-quarters of immigrant detainees are held in private prison facilities. There are millions of Americans who serve long detentions for non-violent offenses, filling our jails, and ruining the lives of those who committed minor crimes. We need to end the private prison industry and end the prohibition of marijuana as it has set in motion an unethical private prison industry making money out of non-violent offenders.
We continue to have veterans who are not cared for. Many veterans in need of mental health care continue to go without it, and we still see too many veterans in our streets living homeless. In the Rio Grande Valley we still do not have a VA hospital, and many who put themselves at the front lines or our military continue to struggle to receive the adequate care they so much deserve. We need policies that don’t only brag about our military, but instead we need policies and laws that protect our veterans when they return from combat.
In general, there are many issues on the line right now. This is a call to action to all my fellow brothers and sisters from the border to speak up, vote, and show Washington D.C that we are a force to be reckoned with.
This November we have a chance to make history and tilt the balance of power in the United States Senate. Congressman Beto O’Rourke from El Paso, a fellow border native, is taking on Ted Cruz for the U.S Senate seat. Ted Cruz has championed and endorsed most of the president’s policies, many that negatively impact our border community.
Let’s get registered, let’s register others, let’s use the power of our votes and shape the future that we know we deserve.