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Hispanic voters can save the American dream

Hispanic voters can save the American dream
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The American dream is under attack.  

I don’t say that lightly. My grandfather came to the United States from Mexico, following the railroad tracks and subsisting on orange peels tossed away by passengers. He was poor, illiterate and undocumented. But fast-forward two generations, and my four siblings and I are all Harvard graduates working as successful entrepreneurs and executives. We’ve been humbled to see our achievements held up as a model for Hispanic success: In 2002, Parade magazine ran a cover story about us entitled “Our American Dream.”

Unfortunately, President Trump doesn’t see my family’s rags-to-riches story as something to celebrate. He sees it as a threat, and wants to deny other Hispanic people the chance to achieve similar success. Trump’s immigration policies – from family separations, to the heartless public charge rule, to the campaign against “Dreamers” – aren’t just designed to slam the door in the face of Hispanic immigrants. They’re meant to limit opportunities and break the spirits of all Hispanic Americans, including those of us lucky enough to have been born here. 

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But I have news for you, Mr. president: No matter how hard you try, you can’t kill the American dream. Hispanic immigrants and their American-born children are now stronger, prouder and more powerful than they’ve ever been. According to Power of the Purse: The Contributions of Hispanic Americans, a new report from New American Economy (NAE), Hispanic Americans are a swiftly growing and vocal segment of the electorate. 

Nationwide, more than 28.8 million Hispanic Americans are eligible to vote this year, up seven million from 2010, and they are registering to vote in record numbers. In Nevada, where Democrats caucus today, as well as in crucial swing states such as Florida, Arizona and Colorado, Hispanic registrations are outpacing those of other groups — and since more than four-fifths of Hispanic registered voters reliably turn out to vote, those new registrations could help swing close-run elections in battleground states.

Hispanic Americans are proud of our success. But we’re also angry as hell about the way our contributions have been dismissed by a president all too eager to label us rapists and criminals. That’s why we’re determined to live our American dream not just by working hard and prospering, but also by using our voices and our votes to keep the dream accessible to anyone, immigrant or citizen, with the energy and imagination to strive for it.  

I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where my parents worked tirelessly to provide for us. My mother had grown up in the shadow of a sewage plant and was determined to give her children a better life. She and my dad managed to scrape together money for our education — and thanks to their efforts, I got the chance to attend college and become an entrepreneur. Since then, I’ve started companies worth a combined $1.2 billion, creating hundreds of jobs and delivering huge returns for my investors. Now I’m running a new studio, super{set}, where I’ve raised $65 million to help launch tech startups. 

Our community has made tremendous economic strides, too. As of 2017, Hispanic American households earned more than $1 trillion, and paid more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in taxes, providing a vital economic boost to the communities where they live and work. Data from New American Economy show that Hispanic Americans now run 2.3 million businesses and employ more than 2.8 million people nationwide. And Hispanic-run businesses have flourished: Over the past decade, the number of Latino-owned businesses has grown 34 percent, according to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. 

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The numbers don’t lie, but I’ve come to realize that the American dream is about much more than the pursuit of economic success. It’s about standing up for the values of this great nation and taking part in the democratic process. Hispanic Americans, whether recently naturalized or here for generations, must vote. Like my parents before me, I often tell my children to work hard. But I also remind them that as Americans, we have a duty to our country, too. For many Hispanic Americans, the 2016 election was a wakeup call, and the excesses of the Trump administration have left us determined to have a say in how our country is run.

Hispanic American voters are a sleeping giant, and thanks to our concentration in battleground states, we can tip the political balance. We make up 12.5 percent of eligible voters nationwide, but almost 43 percent of eligible voters in New Mexico, around 30 percent of eligible voters in California and Texas, almost one in four eligible voters in Arizona and one in five eligible voters in Nevada, according to the NAE

Hispanic Americans know better than anyone that the American dream isn’t just a story about individual people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. It’s also a dream about shared opportunity, and a country where those who succeed have the generosity of spirit to help others rise up behind them. 

President Trump doesn’t understand that. And as a father it’s scary to think that millions of Hispanic American children might spend the next four years watching the most powerful man in the nation try to deny their potential, their very identity as Americans. No American child, Hispanic or otherwise, should feel unwelcome in their own country. 

Latino voters have the power to prevent this. After all that this great nation has given us and our families over the years, it’s time for us to reciprocate: If we mobilize, register to vote and line up to cast our ballots, we can determine who sits in the Oval Office, and send people to Congress with the backbone to stand up for American values. We can keep the American dream alive. 

Tom Chavez is a serial tech entrepreneur and the co-founder of super{set}. Follow him on Twitter @tommychavez.