Recently, New York’s Working Families Party voted to support the campaign to draft Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBig Dem donors stick to sidelines as 2020 approaches DNA is irrelevant — Elizabeth Warren is simply not Cherokee The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump seizes on immigrant 'caravan' for midterms | WHCA criticizes Trump for praising lawmaker who assaulted reporter | Trump takes harder line on Saudis MORE (D-Mass.) to run for president.  In large part, this effort is aimed at ensuring that, throughout the presidential primary and general election season, our nation engages in a spirited conversation about economic inequality and how to fix it.  But, from my work organizing Latino and African-American communities, it’s clear that there’s more to it than that: I want Warren to run to force a real national discussion about racial and immigrant justice.

The two most pressing issues for Latino and African-American communities over the past year have been the ongoing separation of millions of immigrant families and the senseless violence perpetrated by police officers against people of color.


Immigrant communities across America celebrated President Obama’s November announcement of administrative relief for as many as five million undocumented immigrants. But there is still a long way to go to ensure that immigrant families will remain protected.

For one thing, the Republican Party’s failure to step up and allow a vote on comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, has postponed a long-term solution to our broken immigration system for at least a year. Moreover, their subsequent attempts to undo the president’s actions—including risking de-funding the Department of Homeland Security and a lawsuit by Republican governors—have shown the lengths to which they will go to vilify undocumented immigrants who are members of our families and communities and who help drive our economy.  Our communities are under attack, and many of our friends and relatives feel genuine fear when they watch the news each night about House Republicans’ latest antics and the governors’ lawsuit.

As the presidential primary season gets underway, immigrant communities need a champion in the race who will name-and-shame Republicans for their xenophobia and strongly advance an agenda to keep immigrant families together and preserve our communities. Ultimately, we need a path to citizenship for all eleven million undocumented immigrants in this country—anything short of that will keep our families at risk and kick the can down the road.

Meanwhile, our communities have been appalled by the systemic violence that police officers have continued to perpetrate against our communities.  Last year, the tragic deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner—and the failure of grand juries to indict their killers—brought into relief just how far our nation still has to go to achieve racial justice.  On this issue, we need a future president who will tackle this issue head on and make it a centerpiece of her first term. 

And, finally, we need a president who will stand up against the Republican voter suppression efforts aimed at stifling communities of color’s voices across the nation.

Conversations about immigrant and racial justice are difficult. They require deep listening, sensitivity, and courage. But simply because they are difficult does not mean that we can afford to avoid them. For too long, our communities heard that these vital issues were a “third rail” that brought too much risk.  But if we dodge these questions any longer, we will fail to address two of the fundamental challenges facing our nation today and keep ourselves from securing a future of opportunity and equity for all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Warren has increasingly spoken to some of these challenges. As she said in a speech in Boston earlier this year: "In the past half-century, our country has made progress. But we are under attack. ... There are those who want to reverse those gains. Those who want to take away votes. Those who want to make it harder to get an education. Those who believe justice and dignity are reserved only for some people. Those who believe it should be a challenge to vote or even walk down the street. The Supreme Court has now struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act. Young men have died in police custody. And the growing heel of poverty has worn down harder on children of color." As a candidate, given her ability to electrify grassroots Democrats, she can force a genuine and substantive conversation about these and other issues. 

None of this is to say that Hilary Clinton could not engage in these important conversations as the Democratic nominee.  After all, she has supported comprehensive immigration reform and she has suggested that we need to grapple with “hard truths” about racial discrimination. 

But our communities need more than statements of support: we need our issues to be at the center of the fight for the Democratic primary to ensure that they remain center-stage in 2017 and beyond.  Without a vigorous debate, these core issues would likely simply fall to the side. That’s why we need Warren to run and to bring these issues to the forefront of our nation’s political conversation.

Coronations are bad for our democracy. Without genuine political competition, our politics suffers as difficult issues simply get left by the wayside. And with such critical issues facing communities of color in our country right now, an uncontested Democratic primary would be bad for our communities, too. Senator Warren should seek the nomination and ensure that our country has the long-overdue conversations about racial and immigrant justice that our communities so desperately need.

Valdés is the co-executive director of the Make the Road Action Fund and the secretary of New York’s Working Families Party.