There are countless ways to measure the rebirth of my hometown of South Bend, but one of the most delicious signs is the growth of La Rosita ice cream shop on Western Avenue. After immigrating from Mexico to Chicago, Rosalina and Juan Cervera found their way to South Bend, intending to start a restaurant.
They wound up opening a paleteria that has become a vibrant community gathering place on the West Side, emblematic of the vital role that South Bend’s Latino community has played in the life of our city. And that, in turn, reflects the essential role the Latino community holds in American society.
Traveling around the country this past year, from Fresno to Orlando, I’ve seen that the Cerveras are not alone in strengthening local communities and economies across America.
In so many ways, I’ve been reminded how members of the Latino community uphold and embody the values that make us Americans - an entrepreneurial spirit, a work ethic, a commitment to faith and to family. From the workers striking for fairer wages to the Marine I met in Okatie, South Carolina, Latinos don’t just belong in our country, they shape the trajectory of it.
I’ve also seen the consequences of the sense of fear that has been created by the current administration.
Hate crimes against Latinos soared by more than 20 percent last year. The Latino community is now haunted by the attack in an El Paso Walmart this past August, when a gunman murdered 22 people in an act of terror. All this is compounded by a legacy of systemic racism, whether it is the disenfranchisement of the people of Puerto Rico or Latino neighborhoods denied access to clean air and water.
My campaign has woven policies to support and empower the Latino community throughout the plans we have put forward. Now, we are committing to a comprehensive plan to do even more.
As president, I will put an end to this administration’s discriminatory policies, work to dismantle the institutional barriers that have held back Latinos, and ensure that every Latino has the opportunity to thrive. That starts with economic empowerment. Latinos are 50 percent more likely to start a business than their white counterparts, and Latino-owned companies grow faster than companies owned by other groups.
But Latinos are less likely to get a bank loan and more likely to live in poverty. So we will support Latino-owned businesses and Latino entrepreneurs, including investing up to $10 billion in federal capital to establish a fund for underrepresented entrepreneurs. We’ll
implement a $15 federal minimum wage. We will ensure equal pay and promotion for equal work, because it is unacceptable that a Latina makes just 54 cents for each dollar earned by a white man.
Whether you are a gig worker, a farm worker, or a domestic worker, we will guarantee worker protections and the right to form a union.
We will also expand access to affordable housing for millions. Many Latinos are still struggling to recover from the foreclosure crisis, and half are paying more than they can afford for housing. Latinos are also much more likely to live in homes with leaks or pests, and have disproportionately high eviction rates. Gentrification has forced families out of neighborhoods they’ve called home for generations.
To tackle this, my administration will build over two million new affordable housing units for people with low incomes, expand rental assistance to five million more families, and establish an emergency assistance fund and housing counseling services to prevent evictions.
Environmental justice is also critical, as Latinos are especially likely to live in areas where toxic waste, air, and water contamination put their health at risk, and Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma than white children. That’s why we will strengthen air quality
standards, reinstate protections against industrial disasters, and expand access to water and wastewater services. And we will triple funding for the EPA to clean up toxic waste sites and contaminated water.
Last but not least, we must fix our broken immigration system to bring it in line with our values as well as our laws. That includes a p ath to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented people, including people with temporary protections - such as DACA and
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) - who have lived and worked here for decades. While working with Congress to deliver reform for the long term, my administration will restore and extend the temporary protections rescinded by the current administration.
My message to those I meet is simple: "este país es tu país". This country is your country. Everyone who has made the United States their home deserves to participate fully and freely in their communities. Together, we will ensure that the next era is one where every Latino knows
they are empowered and belong.
(Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and a presidential candidate seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party)