How Many Is “Too Many” Latino Elected Officials?

By Dr. Henry Flores, Ph.D.

The reason we can’t get anything done in the Texas state legislature is that there are too many Latinos elected to that “august body.” So sayeth Rebecca Forest, a co-founder of Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas. If you recall, she stood on the steps of the state Capitol and said the reason the government was off track was due to Latino elected representation, “The problem is these Hispanic legislators,” to be quite precise.

Too many Hispanics? ¡Hijole! Just when you think we have arrived somebody lets go with a Freudian slip. I guess that’s better than slipping on a banana peel or something, but still! I mean, what does one have to do to get accepted around here?

The other day another of our “esteemed” (not to be confused with steamed) legislators got angry at a committee witness on the sanctuary city bill because the witness chose to deliver his comments in Spanish.

When the legislator asked the young man if he spoke English the young guy said, fluently, that he did, which then sent the legislator off on his “esteemedness.” The legislator screamed “Well if you can speak English why don’t you?” The young man relied that he had spoken in Spanish because he felt more comfortable in his native language rather than in English. I might note that the witness’ English was better than the interpreter’s.

We have two issues here that are sides of the same coin, first Texas is a majority-minority state; secondly, the largest ethnic group in Texas happens to be Hispanic/Latino. If our “august” legislative chambers were to be truly representative of the state’s population — not just citizens but everyone subject to the legal jurisdiction of the state — then there would be more Latinos in the senate, state house and on the board of education.

But, then, again with more Latinos elected to these legislating chambers we might do something horrible like pass a state income tax, increase spending on education, reform the prison system to reduce recidivism, improve the air and water quality of the state, control the growth of the state which is ruining the environment, and other types of “bad” laws.

One of the most important facts that both of the politicians in Austin seem to overlook is that Latinos keep increasing population-wise every day so that we are now approximately 35% of the entire state population with the vast majority of us voting citizens.

Secondly, as I’ve said before here and in other places, the United States has already become the second largest Spanish speaking nation on the planet Earth. Spanish is more common in everyday life than it was when I was a child — and it was pretty common then. If these two facts continue to be ignored by our “esteemed” legislature, the state will pass into mediocrity in all areas. As it is we already have one of the worst educational, environmental and social-welfare reputations in the entire country. If it weren’t for a few “dirt-poor” states scattered throughout the southeastern part of the United States, Texas would be last among all states in almost every social or economic category available.

Dr. Henry Flores is a professor of Political Science and Dean of the Graduate School at St. Mary’s University, in San Antonio, Texas.

[Photo By roland]

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