Photo by Ed Schipul
Rick Perry’s aspiration to rule the United States as he ruled Texas would be terrible for all of us — especially minorities and the poor.
Perry, who just stepped into the GOP presidential fray, spent his 14 years as governor sidelining entire segments of the population.
Among his prime victims were Latinos. Perry has consistently portrayed himself as a champion of Hispanics, trumpeting a small number of minority appointees and a few sops, such as allowing in-state tuition to undocumented children raised in Texas. But, in general, his policies have been overwhelmingly bad for the Latino community.
El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States, but Perry chose to portray it as a hellhole, exaggerating the incidence of violent crime there. Associating El Paso with the drug cartel violence that plagued its sister city, Juarez, was a way for Perry to make a case for greater control over the lives and movements of heavily Latino border communities.
Perry and his party twice gerrymandered districts to diminish the voting power of Latinos and other minorities. Despite a partially successful lawsuit against Texas gerrymandering in 2006, League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, Republicans largely kept minorities suppressed during the next redistricting in 2012.
This lack of political representation has had a dramatic effect in El Paso. As a city with an 80 percent Latino population, we’ve rarely gotten much consideration from the state. And with a population that votes heavily Democratic in a Republican state, El Paso’s representatives have been ignored for years in the Texas Legislature. During the last state election, one Republican campaigner went so far as to suggest to me that if we wanted to be heard by our government, we ought to start voting for the Republican Party.
That’s what Texas has been under Perry: Vote Republican or go home. The voter ID law that has disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Texans living in poverty was in full effect during the last election. Unlike other states, Texas has made no effort to promote access to state ID cards for the poor. The result is more disenfranchisement.
Since entering the 2016 presidential race, Perry has defended the voter ID law. But many of those disenfranchised by the law are poverty-stricken Latinos. El Paso, home to more than half a million Latinos, is one of the poorest cities in the nation. The poorest is Brownsville, another Texas border town with an even higher percentage of Latino residents.
If Texas is the blueprint Perry will use to reform the nation, we should all be very wary. Perry’s system of government has no room for minorities or the poor.
Jose Miguel Leyva is a freelance writer and journalist living in El Paso, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.