Hispanic was the missing word in the debate

By: Jenny Manrique, Ethnic Media Services


Editor’s Note: Jenny Manrique is a veteran reporter for Spanish-language media including Univision and Palabra.


AUSTIN — After almost six years of living in the United States, my dream for 2020 was to complete my citizenship process on time to vote. But COVID-19 hit the country and more delays were added to the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) backlog, making me realize I wouldn’t be participating in this most important part of being an American. After watching the presidential debate, I must confess my enthusiasm has waned.


Don’t get me wrong. As a reporter who has covered immigration throughout Donald Trump’s administration, I am convinced the country would be better off with a commander in chief who respects diversity, doesn’t treat immigrants as criminals or rip their families apart, and who respects international laws governing asylum.


But regardless of whether I could vote or not, or even was among the “undecideds,” neither candidate spoke to me.


Not just because they were shouting over each other, with Trump’s bullying interruptions turning the 90 minutes into a disastrous spectacle.  But because both men missed numerous opportunities to address an audience that has become the largest racial minority group in the electorate: an estimated 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote this November according to the Latino Vote Project.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Latinx essential workers; the economic debacle is putting small Latinx companies out of business; the racial violence in cities across America is not just a black-and-white issue – there is an alarming level of police brutality against Latinos. Not to mention that about one quarter of Latinos in the United States are of mixed African heritage.


And still, the only moment when the word Hispanic came up was Joe Biden’s timid reference to how suburbs today are integrated with black, whites and Hispanic residents–suburbs impacted by flooding, wildfires and  COVID-19; suburbs where the law and order debate is very relevant, and suburbs where white supremacists, whom President Trump invited to “stand back and stand by,” terrorize ethnic communities.


As a resident of this country I am interested in knowing when and how we can reopen schools and businesses safely and what type of health insurance, if any, I can access. The fact that Trump will have appointed 230 federal judges including a third nominee to the Supreme Court by the end of his term will impact the rights of all immigrants, and very possibly my own future in this country.


Even though I want to examine these issues with a magnifying glass, nothing in the debate touched on them. It leaves me wondering when and if the Hispanic electorate will occupy a central place in the screaming matches to come. Or whether I will find myself sitting awkwardly at a very white thanksgiving table