In the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, our family learned early on the importance of grit and determination. My abuelos started out selling melons out of the back of their truck under the scorching South Texas sun. Over time, they saved enough to purchase a modest brick home, a source of immense pride for my grandma Mela. These humble beginnings were the foundation of our family’s American Dream.
My mother instilled strong values in my brother Carlos and me. After 20 years of honorable service, including tours in Iraq, my brother retired from the Air Force. Before entering the world of politics, I spent over two decades leading successful small businesses. Last year, I became the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress from Texas’ 15th district, which includes McAllen, Seguin, and other areas in South Texas. I can’t help but think that as my abuelitos look down from heaven, they are overjoyed by what our family has achieved.
Now, with Hispanic Heritage Month upon us, it pains me to think that so many Latinos fear that future generations won’t have the same opportunities I did. According to a recent study by the Libre Initiative, 79 percent of Hispanics rate the economy negatively, while a staggering eight out of 10 worry that their children won’t enjoy the same chances they had growing up. This is not the future I want for my kids, or anyone else’s, yet it’s the harsh reality many Hispanics face today.
Things weren’t always like this. In the previous decade, Hispanics experienced a remarkable decline in poverty and higher home ownership rates while leading the nation in the creation of new small businesses. Then, the pandemic struck, and its devastating health impacts were exacerbated by lockdown measures that decimated countless small businesses. By a two-to-one ratio, Hispanics now anticipate a further economic downturn, while a staggering 84 percent say they have been impacted by inflation.
We can attribute many of our economic challenges to decades of misguided policies—from both parties—which have only worsened under the current administration. President Biden’s inflationary agenda has harmed all Americans, but it’s been particularly burdensome for Hispanic families.
Census data paints a vivid picture: On average, Latino households are one person larger than those of other demographic groups. The way this plays out in places like McAllen, TX, is that we often see retired grandparents, moms, dads, and kids all living in the same home. This living arrangement is beautiful and enriching, but under “Bidenomics,” it also means more mouths to feed and less money to do it with.
Against this grim economic backdrop, many Hispanics are reevaluating their political allegiances. This shift is palpable in heavily Hispanic, working-class communities like mine. In 2018, the Democrats carried Hidalgo County by a margin of over 40 points. Fast forward to my election four years later, and we have narrowed that gap by nearly 30 percentage points.
Hispanics are also rejecting extreme Left-wing policies in urban areas like New York and Los Angeles. It’s easy for elites to applaud utopian criminal justice experiments from the comfort of gated communities. After all, it’s not their bodegas that are being robbed. Nor do they suffer the consequences of reckless border policies.
While some extremists on the other side of the aisle alienate Latinos, House Republicans are dedicated to improving the lives of Hispanic families and all Americans.
Our Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act aims to reverse the Biden administration’s plan to hire 87,000 IRS agents. I was also pleased to support the Lower Energy Costs Act, a historic energy package to curb skyrocketing costs and address Biden’s unprecedented war on American energy. Additionally, our Secure the Border Act aims to protect our neighborhoods from gangs and cartels that threaten our families.
As polling shows, Hispanics’ policy priorities also encompass issues like healthcare and the environment. Rather than sidestepping these issues, when Republicans have addressed these concerns with sensible policies, we have thrived in places as diverse as Texas, Florida, and Virginia.
For instance, in Congress, I’m leading a bipartisan effort to secure clean water for my community. Earlier this year, I co-sponsored legislation to protect our abuelitos’ Medicare and Social Security benefits, and fought to make it easier for women to receive life-saving breast cancer treatments. As a mother of two, I am especially proud to have recently introduced the Healthy Babies Act, a common-sense proposal to empower parents on nutritional assistance programs with access to better food options for their children.
My emphasis on quality of life issues and no-nonsense approach to leadership stem from a belief commonly shared by millions of Latinos who fled corrupt and inefficient regimes: Government should not resemble a telenovela.
Hispanics are pragmatic, unapologetically patriotic, fiercely entrepreneurial, and deeply invested in America’s future. If we focus on practical solutions to the challenges working families face, I have no doubt we can expand our Big Tent with millions of new Republican Latinos.
Let’s commit ourselves to building a future where every child can look forward to even greater opportunities than those that came before. As my family’s story shows, this is not just a vision; it is a promise we can make a reality for every American.
Monica De La Cruz represents Texas’ 15th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.