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To Honor Hispanic Heritage Month, Let Us Continue to Push Forward

By Isaac Faz

During Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the culture and independence of various Spanish-speaking countries, including the land from which my parents, and many others, emigrated--Mexico. As we celebrate our heritage, I encourage you to pause to recognize the challenges that many within the Latinx community are facing today.

In this most unusual of years, many Hispanics have been directly affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as current developments related to longstanding civil rights concerns.

First, Hispanics have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Both cases and deaths among Hispanics exceed Hispanics' share of the population. We are essential workers. Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians account for over 60 percent of essential workers in Texas. As of mid-August, Hispanics accounted for approximately 40 percent of the state's population, however, the community has sustained upwards of 52 percent of COVID-19 deaths--including in my own family. Many of these workers--documented or otherwise--are health care workers, caretakers, and literally keep the food on the table via agricultural, service or production, yet they continue to work without adequate protection or rights. Our essential workers are powering this state forward.

In Dallas, data shows the 75211 zip code, which is overwhelmingly Hispanic, has one of the highest rates of COVID-19. Compounding the problem, per a 2019 report by the City of Dallas, the Latinx community is four times more likely not to have health insurance. This should not suprise us, since Texas has the highest rate of uninsured indiviudals in the nation. How can we recover as a city and state if we do not help the recovery of the Latinx community?

Second, in regard to civil rights, members of the Hispanic community are directly impacted by current immigration policies and recent court decisions. This summer the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California that DHS did not follow proper procedure in moving to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Texas has the second highest number of DACA recipients of any state and the DFW area has the most in the state. "Dreamers," as impacted individuals have been called, are our neighbors, friends, first responders, troops, educators, and family. They are students and workers who, according to the Center for American Progress, pay over $3 billion in state and local taxes. Yet there is still not a permanent resolution to this complex issue. Separately, the issue of the separation of children and adults at border facilities raises assorted legal concerns, including the right to representation for affected individuals.

Where do we go from here? We must work towards better representation. The Texas Demographic Center at UT San Antonio states that half of the total population growth over the last decade has been led by Latinos. In Dallas County at least 40 percent of our residents are Hispanic, yet a closer look at our elected officials indicates otherwise. From the court room to city hall, from school boards to Capitol Hill, a candid conversation about diversity must include increasing representation of Hispanics and other groups to ensure we are equally represented among those elected to serve us.

We must work towards more voting engagement. For the first time our history Hispanics will be the largest minority voting group. The Pew Research Center states an estimated 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to cast a ballot on November 3. In Texas, Latinos account for 30 percent of the eligible voter population. This is THE opportunity. We have numbers. We are inspired. We have an extra week to vote early.

I know voting is not a panacea, but during Hispanic Heritage Month it feels like the natural first step. I firmly believe that we cannot just talk about change, we need to be that change. We can see that change manifest if we start by voting. Voting leads to power and elected seats, those seats lead to policy discussions, and inclusive policies will lead to a better life for all of us. This Hispanic Heritage Month we invite you to partner, support, and join us at DallasHispanicBar.com to help make that change a reality. Juntos Podemos ("together we can").

Isaac Faz is President of the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association and the Chief Legislative Counsel at Dallas College.

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