‘America is watching you, Wisconsin’: Julián Castro Focuses on Wis. Latino Vote During Pane Latino-Dems
Clockwise, from top left: Joe Biden adviser Julie Chávez Rodríguez, former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, and Republican commentator Ana Navarro speak Wednesday morning during a virtual Latino-focused event for the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“We know that we have to persuade,” says chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Although former Vice President Joe Biden underperforms with Latinos in national polls, a panel of diverse Latino voices said Wednesday morning they believe the Democratic presidential nominee will appeal to their community in November.

In a virtual discussion, six Latinos ranging from a DACA recipient to a Republican commentator acknowledged Biden’s shortcomings in the Latino community and said he and his campaign must work to earn their vote rather than taking it for granted. 

“We know that we have to persuade,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “We have Latinos who are hardcore Democrats, we have Latinos who are independents, we have Latinos who are Republicans. And what I would say about that is, I believe that Joe Biden can appeal to all of them.”

Biden released a plan for the Latino community earlier this month, vowing to improve the community’s economic mobility, increase access to higher education, reform immigration, and make sure everyone has access to health care. President Donald Trump has not yet released a Latino agenda.

Ana Navarro, a Republican commentator and strategist, joined the panel to urge fellow Latinos to vote for Biden. She endorsed Biden in a tweet last week.

“We don’t all need to agree on every point, but there need to be shared values,” Navarro said Wednesday. “I’m a lifelong Republican. This is not easy for me, but it also was made easy by Donald Trump.”

Navarro said she “will never forget” how Trump painted Mexicans as criminals and rapists in his campaign launch speech, how he repeatedly tried to eliminate the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or how his Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency continues to separate families at the country’s southern border.

“He’s committed countless human-rights abuses that have impacted our communities at every turn,” said Julie Chávez Rodríguez, a senior Biden adviser and former Obama administration staffer. 

Luis Velasquez, a DACA recipient and member of Milwaukee advocacy group Voces de la Frontera, pushed for Democrats to follow through on immigration reform and recognize many in the Latino community feel a “deep dissatisfaction” with the Obama administration’s failings with immigration. 

Obama was frequently labeled the “deporter in chief,” as he deported more people than even Trump.

“That is something the campaign needs to address if it hasn’t already, and it needs to be honest … because as Latinos, we don’t sugarcoat the truth,” Velasquez said.

Julián Castro, a former Democratic presidential candidate and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama-Biden administration, also appeared.

He said Latino voters in Wisconsin, who have turned out in low numbers in several past elections but showed up in force to oust ex-Gov. Scott Walker in 2018, could help Biden win the state. 

Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016, and at the time there were 70,000 unregistered potential Latino voters in the state, Perez said.

“America is watching you, Wisconsin,” Castro said.

JoCasta Zamarripa, an outgoing Democratic state representative and newly elected Milwaukee alderperson on the city’s south side, is one of the local leaders who helped launch Todos con Biden, a pro-Biden Latino voter initiative, earlier this month in Wisconsin. She participated in the panel Wednesday morning and also spoke to UpNorthNews Tuesday afternoon.

As of the 2010 Census, Latino households in Wisconsin made just 72 percent as much as the average white household, according to a University of Wisconsin Applied Population Laboratory report.

That report also found that only 33 percent of the state’s Latinos have education past high school, while 40 percent never finished high school.

Zamarripa told UpNorthNews she is confident Biden is taking those inequities into consideration and will fight to improve them.

“I feel like Joe has a commitment to that, and absolutely I and others have a responsibility to hold him accountable,” Zamarripa said.