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Hispanics Need a Voice in Presidential Debates

No topic has received more media attention this year than immigration, particularly Hispanic immigration.  Clinton wants to find ways to ease the path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, including Hispanic immigrants.  Trump has proposed his famous wall to block unauthorized Hispanic immigrants that would stretch across the entire southern United States and would cost more than $20 billion.

While Trump’s wall has received considerable press, a different wall has been created to block Hispanics from having a say in a subject that affects their entire culture.  It is a wall that has kept Hispanic-Americans out of the debate regarding their own future.  Every day, major media outlets discuss candidate views and policies on Hispanic immigration.  However, the Commission on Presidential Debates has yet to select a single Hispanic-American academic, journalist or political figure to moderate a Presidential Debate.

This is a glaring omission that must change!  Hispanic professionals know immigration better than anyone because we live with the issue every day.  We have friends and families that have immigrated and understand the problems and stigmas faced as immigrants.  More important, we understand what it is like to be labeled and judged based on all the media about immigration.

Hispanic-Americans are an important and growing demographic.  Right now, almost one in every five U.S. citizens is Hispanic.  One in every four children in the U.S. is Hispanic.  By 2020, one in five workers of the U.S. labor force will be Hispanic. Furthermore, Hispanics account for more than 27 million American votes, a figure that increases by 66,000 every month or 800,000 every year, according to the Pew Research Center.

Immigration is a complex issue.  The American people deserve the context necessary to understand a subject that requires a better solution than one gigantic and extremely expensive wall.  It is a context that would be best revealed through pointed questions about immigration from a talented and noted Hispanic media professional who lives and understands the plight of immigrants every day.

There are plenty to choose from.  A great selection would be Maria Hinojosa, the anchor of NPR’s Latino USA.  In her career, she has won four Emmys, the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists‘ Radio Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Overseas Press Club,  and the Walter Cronkite Award.

Another selection could be José Díaz-Balart.  He is one of the most respected journalists in America as the anchor of Telemundo’s national daily newscast “Noticiero Telemundo” and the Saturday edition of “NBC Nightly News.”  He has received numerous accolades, including the George Foster Peabody Award, Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award, and the Broadcasting & Cable/Multichannel News Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hispanic Television.

A third option is Maria Elena Salinas, one of Univision’s most respected anchors and a journalist the New York Times has called “the Voice of Hispanic America.”  She has won a Peabody Award, a Cronkite Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award, and a lifetime achievement Emmy Award, amongst others in her career.

These are professional, accomplished journalists who have earned the right to be listed with the successful journalists chosen to moderate previous Presidential debates.

Both Democrats and Republicans recognize the need for Hispanic-American support to win this election. There’s no doubt that the Hispanic community has become a defining feature in the changing face of America. At this point, it’s not a matter of deciding whether to engage with the Hispanic community — it’s a matter of how, when and where.

The 2016 presidential race has been unorthodox and unpredictable to say the least.  Part of that is how we’re seeing anti-immigrant rhetoric become a core theme of a campaign for the first time since President Fillmore’s 1856 campaign, when he ran on an anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant platform.  Fillmore lost because he was challenged on his anti-diversity rhetoric.  The same must be done this year in the spirit of accountability and fairness.

There are complex issues and nuances that the Hispanic community best understands.  The only way to guarantee a true perspective on such a complex issue is to have moderators who understand it as no one else.  That is why there must be a Hispanic-American moderator for at least one of the 2016 Presidential debates.

Our organization advocates on behalf of more than four million Hispanic-owned firms, who collectively contribute more than $661 billion to our American economy every year. From taco truck vendors to owners of Fortune 500 companies, it is this rich diversity that makes our story an American story. Our members pride themselves on being American businessmen and women first. We take great pride in the products we bring to market and the jobs we create.

The Commission on Presidential Debates must correct this unfortunate misstep of lacking a Hispanic-American voice in this election’s presidential debates.

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