“Government for the people, by the people.”
Cristina believes that today a small group of powerful people have abandoned the notion of a government for the people, by the people. Rather, they are trying to take over our government, to make it serve them and their interests, not the American people. Cristina believes the crisis our democracy faces nationally will be fought and won in places like Texas. She states, “We are at a crossroads and have a choice - do we become a country divided and fearful, or do we choose to become a nation that recognizes our diversity as a strength and builds a country and democracy that is shaped by the unique voices and interests that look like who America is today?”
Cristina believes in equality and embracing diversity. These values come up often in immigration debates where it becomes apparent that it’s not all immigrants that a bigoted minority want out of the country - it’s immigrants from communities of color.
Cristina believes healthcare is a fundamental human right, yet, the U.S.- the richest nation in the world, is behind every other industrialized nation in guaranteeing this basic right for every man, woman and child in the U.S. Cristina believes we must make healthcare for all a right for every Texan, because Texas healthcare ranks dead last in the nation. Today one in six Texans do not have health insurance - the highest rate in the nation.
Cristina believes that economic justice must first be achieved before the Texas and national economy can truly thrive. The Lone Star State has been held up as an economic model by some, but what has often been left out of the discussion is the lack of economic justice that is pervasive. There is a growing gulf between the ultra wealthy and the rest of us. In a nation as rich as the U.S and a state as rich as Texas, Cristina says we must change how we judge the strength of our economy if we’re ever going to make sure working families are getting ahead.
Cristina is determined to see our nation choose the latter path so that we may construct a government that is truly for the people, by the people. Because of this, in 2016, she founded Jolt, a non-profit organization that works to increase the voting participation and leadership of young Latinos in Texas as she truly believes the youth are our future. At Jolt, they are focused on harnessing the power of youth in government, not only because they are now the largest voting block but also because nearly every major U.S. social movement has been fought and won with young people at the forefront. From the civil rights movement to the antiwar and women’s rights movements, young people have always been and will continue to be our future. Young people have often had the boldest visions for change, employed the most daring tactics, and pushed this country to live up to its promise to guarantee all its citizens the same rights and privileges.
In Jolt’s first year, they mobilized thousands of young Latinos to action and formed student chapters across Texas to register and mobilize young Latino voters. Jolt’s work reached an estimated 50 million Americans, with their quinceñera [hot link] at the capitol - an immigrant rights protest that went viral, showing how potent youth in government can truly be. Jolt is building a movement of young Latinos to take back our state, our country, and our future so that the interests of ordinary people are served.
Jolt affirms we should have a government that:
Should Vote the Will and Represent Everyone's Needs
Our elected officials should vote the will of the people of Texas, not just corporations or a bigoted minority. Elected officials must enact policies to ensure that all communities have access to good schools, healthcare, good jobs and a clean environment.
Value all Voices and Votes
All voices and votes should be valued and counted. It should be easy for people to vote and to talk to their elected officials. We must also get corporate money out of politics so that our elected leaders are accountable to us — the people, not just corporations or donors.
Embodies Political Diversity
Those in power should look like who Texas is today — we are majority people of color, half of us are women, many of us are LGBTQ, and most people make under $56,000 a year. To tackle the toughest challenges we face as Latinos and as a state, we need political diversity and as such, politicians who understand our communities and experiences as they embody diversity.
The current (and historical) intolerance of immigration is not about whether immigrants are good for the economy, work hard, or commit more crimes than other Americans because the facts prove that:
"The debate about immigration is about race, civil rights and who we become as a nation."
No, the immigration debate is not about economics or rule of law although it is masked as being so. The true debate is about racial justice and civil rights. Bigots in power and their supporters are afraid that our country is changing and soon we will become a nation where people of color make up the majority. They believe the only way to stop our country from becoming a diverse nation is by stopping immigrants from Latin America, Africa and Asia from being able to come to the U.S. through safe and legal means. What they fail to understand is that this is inevitable. This is why we must start showing up for racial justice. Immigration is changing America for the better, and it’s time to embrace diversity or get left behind.
Today, immigrants and their children make up 27% of the U.S. population, and the majority are people of color, with Mexicans making up the largest share, with one in four immigrants coming from Mexico and Latinos comprise 45% of American immigrants. Estimates by the Census Bureau indicate that by 2044 people of color will make up the majority of the population, in the nation’s two most populous states- California and Texas, people of color already are the majority.
Those who most oppose immigration, such as self-proclaimed “White supremacists” like Richard Spencer, Mark Collett, and KKK leader David Duke, are so afraid of what this impending racial diversity means that they have ramped up efforts to end migration from Latin America, Asia and Africa to maintain the white majority and supremacy in the United States.
Spencer says, “For us “immigration” is a proxy for race. In that way, immigration can be good or bad: it can be a conquest (as it seems now) . . . or a European in-gathering, something like White Zionism. It all depends on the immigrants. And we should open our minds to the positive possibilities of mass immigration from the White world.”
According to Collett, Immigration is a “Multicultural nightmare, which only ends up with the white man being the victim.”
And David Duke has stated “Trump has been a promoter of European people, when he says he prefers immigrants from Norway instead of Haiti, he is telling a fundamental truth…The demographic change we face isn’t just with immigration, it’s with the birth-rates of immigrants. This could change the voting demographics in just a few years.”
Since Donald Trump launched his Presidential campaign, white supremacists and immigration oppositionists alike have now gained a platform to spew their hatred as Trump consistently demonizes, criminalizes, and targets immigrants.
Diversity is our Strength
Some in power fear embracing diversity and want to turn Americans against one-another by fomenting hate against immigrants and communities of color, insinuating that white Americans are incapable of coexisting with people of color. Cristina, however, believes the opposite - that our diversity is our strength and that no place better proves that than Texas. We are a state of 28 million people, where people of color make up the majority, fueled in large part by a growing young Latino and immigrant population. Immigrants have helped make our state culturally, economically, and diversely rich.
Immigrants like 31-year-old DREAMer and Mexican immigrant Alonzo Guillen who died during hurricane Harvey, when he set-out in his boat to rescue Texans in need.
Indian Doctors Pankaj Satija and his wife Dr. Monika Ummat who have spent the last 15 years raising their children and serving patients with special neurological needs in Houston, Texas, providing critical care to thousands of Texans - but in March of 2017 were told by ICE they had 24 hours to leave the U.S, even as the state faces a shortage in trained medical professionals; and
Bryan Thuc Tran and wife Yen Tran, owners of The Point restaurant in Palacios, Texas who were featured in Anthony Bourdain’s “Part’s Unknown.” Bryan and Yen are Vietnamese immigrants that came to Texas in 1975 as refugees. They are one of the millions of immigrants business owners in Texas, in the Lone Star State immigrant-run businesses account for 30% of all new businesses in the state.
While our nation has benefited from the rich diversity of immigrants and much of our growth has been sustained by immigrants and their children, some in power refuse to see immigrants and the children of immigrants as equally American, especially if they are people of color - no matter how many generations have been here. We must embrace diversity and support immigrants, especially those of color, by showing up for racial justice with our voices and votes.
Cristina states, “Our nation faces a choice. Do we let the powers that be turn us against each other, or do we build a state and democracy that is shaped by the diverse interests and voices that represent who we are today?” As a nation, we should embrace diversity, not run from it. In order to do so, we must start showing up for racial justice.
Below are some reasons why Cristina believes immediate action is necessary:
Healthcare is a fundamental human right, yet we, “the richest nation in the world,” are somehow behind every other industrialized nation in guaranteeing this basic right for every man, woman and child in the U.S.
Cristina points out that universal healthcare is the most cost effective, fair and best way to ensure that all people have healthcare. With the health market in its current state, “Even if you are lucky enough to have health insurance, it is a challenging, bureaucratic system that often still leaves you owing thousands of dollars after an illness or injury that you and your family were probably not prepared to pay.” She adds, “It’s something I experienced when I gave birth to my son, I thought I would owe a thousand dollars because I had “good” insurance but I ended up paying nearly four times that amount.
Nearly every Texan and American knows someone that is uninsured and the struggles they face to get the basic care they need. For Cristina, that is her mother:
"She is diabetic and uninsured. She is forced to cut her $12 pills in half because she can’t afford the full cost for the medication she should take. When she is sick she is afraid to go the doctor because she can’t afford it, yet, physically she can’t afford not to get medical care she needs. Diabetes is the number one cause of adult blindness and one of the leading causes of amputations in the U.S. Families shouldn’t be forced to make these kinds of choices in the richest nation in the world."
The universal healthcare debate should not be a debate; universal health care in the United States should be considered a fundamental human right.
“We must make healthcare for all a right for every Texan, because Texas healthcare ranks dead last in the nation.”
Today one in six Texans do not have health insurance - the highest rate in the nation, disproportionately impacting communities of color. In Texas, one in three Latinos lack health insurance. Additionally, Texas made a substantial reduction in financial support for women’s healthcare beginning in 2011, with the withdrawal of over $73 million in women’s family planning service funding. Consequently, the maternal mortality rate has risen substantially, and though births to black women made up only 11 percent of all Texas births in 2012, black women accounted for 29 percent of maternal deaths.
Medicare for All
Cristina believes we need Medicare for all so that every American can get the care they need. She states that medicare for all is the most fair, cost-effective and humane system for our country, and the benefits of universal healthcare speak for themselves:
You can get the healthcare you need without worrying about how to pay for it or if your insurance will actually cover your bills. With universal Medicare coverage, every American would be able to go to the doctor and receive the care they need, without having to worry about how to pay for it or dealing with insurance companies and bills afterwards.
It will lower the cost for everyone. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spends more money on healthcare per capita than any other nation in the world. The savings rack up under a universal healthcare system, for several reasons. For one, the administrative costs are lowered by nearly 83% and there are no advertising costs consumers need to help cover for insurance companies- saving another estimated 15%. And most importantly, under universal healthcare, the government is able to negotiate more favorable terms with service providers. For example, the average cost of coronary bypass surgery was more than $73,000 in the United States but less than $23,000 in France!
We will be a healthier country. Many Americans think they have the most expensive healthcare in the world because it’s the best. But they are wrong: The US ranks 28th, below almost all other industrialized nations, when it comes to the quality of its healthcare. With Universal healthcare, our medical system would switch from a system where insurance and drug companies profit from our illnesses, to one that incentivizes quality care and prevention, many more people would be healthy and live longer.
It would help small businesses. Small businesses would greatly benefit from a medicare for all health care system that could reign in our runaway healthcare costs. In 2015, American businesses spent $637 billion on private health insurance and are projected to spend more than $1 trillion by 2025. With Medicare-for-all, Americans and businesses wouldn’t pay premiums, deductibles or co-pays and no one would be denied coverage. Medicare for all would free small businesses from the burden and cost of managing and paying for their employees’ health care. Small businesses could hire qualified staff because they wouldn’t have to compete with large companies that are able to provide better healthcare coverage. And new entrepreneurs could start a new business without having to worry about how to get health care coverage.
“We can’t simply look at companies’ profit margins and unemployment figures. To judge our nation’s economic strength, we must look at how well working people are doing.”
Cristina dedicated the last decade of her career fighting for economic justice for the poor and working people in one of our nation’s largest economies - Texas. In Texas, I founded and led the Workers Defense Project, an organization committed to defending the rights of some of the hardest working and most undervalued people in our economy — construction workers — who should be prospering with the rapid growth in Texas, but aren’t. Most construction workers live below the poverty line even though they work full time. They frequently don’t get paid for their work, are seriously injured on the job, and are more likely to die on the job in Texas than in any other state. For these workers, the Texas economic “miracle” has been a nightmare; there is no economic justice here.
While publications like Forbes and the Economist have diligently debated the cause of Texas’ “miracle” growth, there have been far fewer articles written assessing how well this growth has played out for the working people who are the backbone of the Lone Star State’s economy. For some time now, our Texas Governor has been successfully selling his formula for economic “prosperity”: undermine the rights of workers, keep wages down, keep taxes low, and give out billions of the state’s budget to big business. Sure, this formula can create growth, but the problem is there isn’t a full and detailed accounting of the actual costs and benefits to the average Texan.
Cristina observes that across America, the “Texas miracle” is gaining clout. She argues, “American exceptionalism tells people that if they work hard, they will be rewarded. That myth persists despite decades of evidence against it. The average American worker has been working harder but hasn’t seen a real raise in wages in over thirty years. Despite workers today contributing almost twice as much to the economy as they did in 1973, their wages haven’t risen at nearly the same rate, with the median wage of a full-time worker stalled at $16.07 an hour- just $33,425 a year.” Where’s the economic justice in that?
As indicated, Texas’ economy may be booming, but it clearly isn’t benefiting everyone. While Texas’ unemployment rate is lower than the nation’s average, this hasn’t necessarily translated into good jobs. The jobs Texas has added to the state’s economy are overwhelmingly low-wage, dead end jobs. While Texas has grown in terms of jobs and output, today over a quarter of Texas children live in poverty - one of the highest rates in the country. How can we claim our state is thriving when our most vulnerable fall by the wayside?
All of this misfortune could be avoided though; the state could be investing revenue from its growth back into the people of Texas, through education and job training to build a skilled and prosperous workforce, but instead it has chosen to do the opposite. A 2013 New York Times expose found that 51 percent of the state’s budget was dedicated to providing tax cuts and incentives to big business. Meanwhile, Texas spends $2,300 below the national average for the education per student, ranking 36th in the nation. Texas is also one of only two states that invests the bare minimum in job training at the state level to receive access to federal funds. The state is failing to ensure its residents are prepared for good jobs they can build careers out of. This massive investment in corporate welfare at the expense of the majority of Texans has created an economy with a growing gulf between the ultra wealthy and everyone else.
Cristina believes we won’t be able to address inequality in this country until we change how we judge the strength of our economy. When all we look at is unemployment and GDP, we have an impoverished understanding of our economy’s actual performance when it comes to the things that matter most: our kids, our health, our job security, and our overall quality of life. And when we measure our success against this impoverished understanding of our economy’s health, most of us end up impoverished as a result.
“It’s time to restructure our economy to work for everyone so that we can truly ensure economic justice for all.”