Growth In Latino Political Power Focus Of South Coast Forum

Apr 11, 2017

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, the word “routine” is certainly one which doesn’t apply to American politics these days. The controversy surrounding the federal government, and how it filters down to state, and local agencies makes new headlines on almost a daily basis, with immigration topping the list in California.

The situation is especially in the forefront for California’s Latino officials.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia was part of an event called “Latinos in Politics” at Cal State Channel Islands. Garcia says the current political climate has stirred more interest than ever, and more involvement in politics in the Latino community.

Nearly 40% of the state’s 39 million residents are Latino. Still, while Latino representation is growing, it’s still lagging behind population percentages. About 20 percent of the legislature is Latino. A 2016 study by Leadership California showed that just 15% of City Council members, and 10% of County Supervisors are Latino.

Numbers like that are part of a push that’s led a number of Central and South Coast cities to change the way hold council elections, shifting from at large to district elections to try to improve representation.

While Latinos in politics was the theme of Cal State Channel Islands event, the discussion came back to the immigration controversy. Garcia pointed out that he’s an immigrant himself. He’s from Peru, and didn’t become a U.S. citizen until he was 21. Now, Garcia is mayor of a city with a larger population than Kansas City, Miami, or Minneapolis.

He, like other officials at this forum say they think the immigration debate is an issue which will eventually be settled in the courts. They say though if something good is coming out of the controversy, it’s encouraging more Latinos to speak up, and get involved with the political system.