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Interview with Henry Cisneros

Interview with Henry Cisneros, Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Interview complete.

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JR:With us via satellite is former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Henry Cisneros. Mr. Cisneros, you just heard Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez. He’s very upset with the members of his own Republican Party. Why did they lose?  

HC: Well, there’s going to be a tremendous quarrel among Republicans because there is this right wing portion of the Tea Party that is still strong, plus moderates like the Secretary whose comments we just heard, and there will be infighting that will determine the future of the Republican party. But they’ll have to change because this election was about many things, but clearly one of them was a demographic shift. The country is changing.

There are a lot of young people, people in diverse groups, and among them, Latinos.  And when the Republican Party assumes a position against immigration as it has done, they aren’t going to win Hispanics’ loyalty. President Obama had a significant victory that could make him one of the great figures in American history. Presidents like Wilson, or presidents like Franklin Roosevelt or presidents like Lyndon Johnson, that changed, like Bill Clinton, that changed the nation, but in this case it could be bigger because he is governing in a time of demographic changes when we’re counting more Americans.

The president will have to fulfill his promises, his commitment to immigration reform. That’s important, and I believe it’s possible because Republicans will not be able to be so openly opposed to the interests of Latinos given the results of this election. But also on education, employment, salaries, we’re going to see policies for progress, prosperity, betterment.  

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JR:  Secretary Cisneros, if you were to advise President Barack Obama, and we know that president Barack Obama and many other Democrats listen to you, what would you recommend for trying to convince the Republicans and working with them? I think that if there’s one thing we understood from this election it’s that people are tired of the fighting happening in Congress, where absolutely nothing has been resolved.  What would you advise Barack Obama? What must be done?

HC: Well, the president has several issues where he’s going to need bipartisan effort. They are going to have to talk to Republican leaders and convince them that the right wing of the Tea Party, which doesn’t want any taxes, that wants to cut programs, that’s opposed to immigration, is wrong and that there is a place in the center where Republicans and Democrats can work together on fiscal issues that are very serious, the national debt, and the problem of facing another recession due to not taking action.

The issue of the war in Iran. I mean Iraq, in Afghanistan and the problem with nuclear plants in Iran, for example, the problem of global terrorism and the economy. Yes, we have to keep improving the economy. There are big and important problems, and among them is immigration. There are three or four issues of great importance that could establish his record in history, and for that he will need the Republicans and must talk to them from the beginning of his administration, and I think he will do it. He’s already going to start talking with Boehner and others immediately.  

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JR: Secretary, I’ll end with this. You, of course, have been in Texas and governed in Texas for a long time. Will it be true that in two or three election cycles from now, Texas will be Democratic and not Republican? How is your state changing?

HC: Well, it depends on the growth of the Hispanic community, on their becoming citizens and voting Democratic. And if that happens, then the biggest states like   New York, California, Florida and Texas will be Democratic and the Republican Party will have to completely change its policies, because they will not be able to win presidential, national elections at that point.  It is possible. We need leadership like we have in Julián Castro, for example, and others, his brother Joaquín, Pete Gallegos and others, a new, young generation that is occupying leadership positions.

Texas is important, but we also see Latinos with influence in Colorado, in New Mexico, in Nevada, in many other states, Virginia, Washington State, Oregon, and even North Carolina. We are a national force and we’re going to have a long-term national impact in this country. This is a tremendous moment for Latinos. This is a victory for the president of the Democratic Party, but in great measure, also for Latinos and their future.  

JR: Henry Cisneros, thank you very much. Henry Cisneros via satellite from San Antonio.

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