On Sunday morning at Excellence in Journalism 2013, actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria led a group of panelists in a discussion about the Latino vote.
The five panelists alongside Longoria were Rocky Chavez, a Republican California Assembly representative, Maria Teresa Kumar, a representative from the Voto Latino organization, John A. Perez, the California Assembly Speaker, and Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat in the House of Representatives.
The room buzzed with whispers and camera clicks upon the actress’s arrival, making it one of the most highly-anticipated events of the three day conference.
Longoria and the panelists dove into four controversial topics: the Latino vote, immigration, Latino education, and whether race matters.
The first question Longoria asked the panelists about what is expected of the younger generation of Latinos, and how they could get involved politically.
“Young voters are the hardest thing to excite,” said Sanchez, referring to the 66,000 Latino youth that turn 18 every month with an incredible amount of political potential.
Though the younger generation are ultimately going to be the ones to change the face of the political system, the panelists all agreed that Latino voters of all ages face a hard time voting. Kumar cited Texas’s voter ID laws as an example.
“Immigration is important to our community, [and it] becomes more important when the other side bashes us and bashes us and bashes us until they make us feel like we are lower class,” Sanchez said.
Perez said the three biggest issues facing Latinos are the economy, education and immigration. In regard to immigration, he said most Latino voters have similar opinions to the average voter.
“We can’t keep talking about immigration reform as only a Latino issue,” Perez said.
Longoria agreed, saying: “You can’t always make Latinos synonymous with immigrants.”
Another issue for the Latino community cited by the panelists was education. Chavez said a third of Latinos don’t graduate from high school because many drop out to get jobs.
Education is a key component for moving forward,” Chavez said.
Kumar said education needed to be modernized, and suggested high schools look into mentorships. Perez suggested more vocational education programs.