By MIGUEL SANTIESETEBAN
ATHENS, Ga. – University of Georgia alumnus Samuel Aguilar spoke about the importance of voting and encouraged Latino students to use their vote to elect Latino representatives in the upcoming midterm elections.
Aguilar discussed the effect of Latino voters in Georgia and how young students can make a nation-wide impact. His speech empowered many Latino students who attended the UGA Hispanic Student Association (HSA) Voces Unidas panel Tuesday night at the university’s Miller Learning Center.
Aguilar oversees the organization team of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. He explained their main focus approaching midterm elections is immigration reform, but they cannot achieve this without the support of local activism.
“Just walking around those halls of [the Capitol building], there’s really not a lot of young people, and especially not a lot of Latinos in the building,” Aguilar said. “There’s a real lack of representation of physically looking at somebody who looks like us, walking in there and talking to folks about issues that matter to us.”
The congressional representation of the Latino community is already disproportionate to the Latino population in the United States. However, Aguilar says it is worse in Georgia.
“At the national level I think people are paying attention to [the Latino vote]”, Aguilar said. “But here in Georgia, we’re not necessarily seeing that shift yet. I think that’s because our Latino community here is still very young, so a lot of the community that are citizens are still under the age of 18.”
Latino Lobbyists’ like Aguilar believe their key to political success is sitting on desks inside public educational institutions. Current HSA Political Action Chair Crystal Gomez agreed. She said that some of the top issues that affect Latinos living in the United States are economy, healthcare, and education. She said Latino millennials are unaware they make up the majority of the Latino voting population.
“We all need to become more aware of the current political events occurring today,” Gomez said. “It’s important for the Latino community to be well-represented in Congress.”
Immigration reform and the debate over a wall stretching across America’s southern border are only a few issues facing the Latino community in the Trump administration. However, there are many current issues directly affecting students’ everyday lives, such as the DACA program and various limitations in specific Visa categories.
In addition to voting in November, Aguilar also encouraged HSA members to vote locally in the upcoming SGA elections this week.
“At the end of the day what really matters is civic engagement, voter registration, and voter participation,” Aguilar said. “The more that you guys register to vote, the more you all get your friends to register to vote, become active in political campaigns, and let people know how you feel about issues, the quicker we will see the changes that we all want to see when it comes to representation of the local, state and federal level.”