John A. Pérez: Antonio Is More Than My Cousin – He’s My Champion

John A. Pérez: Antonio Is More Than My Cousin – He’s My Champion

  • Share this Article

I believe Antonio is the right choice to lead our state and build on these last eight years of progress.

There are many practical reasons to support Antonio. He knows the levers and choke points of government. He knows how to turn policy goals into policy achievements. He knows how to keep budgets balanced and stable.

There are many progressive reasons to support Antonio. He launched unprecedented efforts to reduce carbon emissions in Los Angeles. He built a world class public transit system in a city where there are more cars than people. And as a labor organizer and director of the ACLU of Southern California, he has never ceased to be a champion for working people, immigrants and communities of color.


But I have a very personal reason for supporting Antonio, and I’d like to share it with you.

In 1994, Antonio was running for the State Assembly for the first time, and he appeared before Stonewall Democrats to ask for our endorsement. I was a young labor organizer, becoming more active in community and political life. Now, the fact that Antonio even asked for our endorsement was significant. This was 1994, where public support for LGBT rights was a fraction of where it stands today. Ideas like domestic partnerships were still years away and many Democrats saw LGBT rights as a third-rail issue.

Not Antonio. He came to our meeting and asked for our support.

And during the question and answer portion, he very matter-of-factly answered “yes” when he was asked if he supported same sex marriage. That was such a meaningful moment for me. I felt chills down my spine. Antonio is my cousin, so of course I was going to vote for him. But in that moment, he made it clear that he was something more than my cousin: he was my champion.

Just like he’s always been a champion for immigrants. And working people. And the poorest, sickest and most vulnerable Californians.

And more importantly, Antonio fought for us in the Assembly. The first employment protections for LGBT Californians were introduced and passed by Antonio. It would be another decade before most politicians had the courage to embrace a position that came to Antonio as naturally and quickly as any other issue of justice.

And that’s because justice is the through-line of Antonio’s career. He’s fought for minimum wage increases time and again because he believes in worker justice. He believes that environmental justice means clean air, clean water and clean power for every Californian.

And he believes in opportunity.

Antonio and I grew up in a California where the government was unflinching in taking bold action to create opportunity – but those opportunities weren’t always accessible to folks who grew up in places like Boyle Heights and El Sereno, like Antonio and I did. But we had those opportunities because an earlier generation of Latino leaders fought hard to earn a seat at the table in the Legislature. They made sure that visionary policies like the Master Plan for Higher Education were available to folks like Antonio and I. That inclusive vision, paired with prudent stewardship of our finances, resulted in unprecedented prosperity and growth for California.

Antonio believes that’s the spirit we need to recapture – a bold, transformative effort to create more opportunity for the middle class and low-income Californians.

I know we have a lot of good candidates for Governor. I have served with many of Antonio’s competitors, and I have great respect for them. I support Antonio because he alone has the right level of compassion, experience and conviction.

I’m proud of Antonio and of what he’s accomplished. I often think back to that Stonewall Democrats meeting. He was willing to risk his entire political career because he believed in what was then an unpopular truth – that LGBT Californians were deserving of equal rights.

I thought about that evening when he was sworn in as Mayor. I had the same chills and for the same reason. Antonio had just taken his oath of office, and I knew, absolutely knew, that there were kids who would find out their new mayor’s name was Antonio and possibilities that had never occurred to them before would suddenly occur to them. Some of those kids were thinking “maybe I can be mayor” – just like some of my peers in 1994 were thinking, “I never thought I’d hear a straight candidate support same sex marriage.”

Progress is achieved when our politics and our government are aspirational. And progress is maintained when our leaders are prudent, focused and decisive. Antonio Villaraigosa has been fighting for justice and progress his entire life. He’s dreamed big, and he’s balanced budgets. He has the talent and tenacity to run our state, and he has the compassion and conviction to create the environment where our progressive values can thrive.

For these reasons, I hope you will join me in supporting Antonio Villaraigosa for Governor.


John A. Pérez, Speaker Emeritus

More News and Views

Californians Deserve a Fair Shake

Californians Deserve a Fair Shake

  • Share this Article

A new report from prominent and respected economic and policy experts, as well as labor, political and business leaders, was just released – and everyone who cares about closing the gap between the rich and poor should take notice.

It comes from the Fair Shake Commission on Inequality in California, which is chaired by environmentalist and investor Tom Steyer. The panel includes a “who’s who” list of respected leaders from Provisional President of SEIU Local 2015 Laphonza Butler to former Member of Congress George Miller to former State Senator Darrell Steinberg.

The bottom line – the report shows that the problem of income inequality might be even worse than we imagined.

The new report highlights that wages for California workers have stagnated despite the fact that they are more productive than ever. Between 1979 and 2013, according to statistics quoted by the report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center, worker productivity was up 89 percent but median hourly compensation grew by just 3 percent during that same period. That’s a long way of saying – the rich got richer, but the workers didn’t.

Sadly, there are enduring regional and racial divides when it comes to income and family wealth. The report shows that in California, in 2014, 24.8 percent of African Americans, 23.3 percent of Latinos and 23.1 percent of Native Americans were living in poverty, compared to 10.2 percent of whites. As we know, here in California, many places on our coast are thriving, but travel just a few dozen miles inland, and you will find pockets of crushing poverty.

My campaign to give voice to every Californian starts with a clear vision – we need to lift more families up with better schools, affordable job training programs, college degrees, affordable homes, modern infrastructure and, most of all, access to meaningful work that gives people both a living wage AND provides job satisfaction with dignity.

To create high-wage jobs and attract and retain high-wage industries, we need to make sure we have the best trained workers, not just in America, but in the world. That takes investment in ourselves – from universal pre-kindergarten to affordable and accessible college and job training. Just about every industry of the future will be a knowledge-based industry. It just about takes the skill of a 1950’s auto designer to be an auto mechanic in the new century. Almost all of the manufacturing of the future will be based on high-technology. These jobs don’t all require college degrees, but they do require job training and, usually, life-long job training.

The industries of the future will be located in the states and communities where they can find the best-trained workers. And that will take not just a continued investment in our students and work force, but new investments in roads, rail and water infrastructure to grow our economy and in affordable housing that attracts and retains high-skilled workers.

To me, the campaign for Governor must be a fact-based and vigorous debate on how we can close the gap between rich and poor and help millions of Californians who have been left out or left behind earn the respect, dignity and meaningful work they seek.

This report is an outstanding addition to this vital discussion.

You can read the report here.

More News and Views

A Failing Grade on College Access

A Failing Grade on College Access

  • Share this Article

The dedicated folks at the Campaign for College Opportunity have released a detailed report card this morning on access to college for Californians – and the results are sobering.

On key metrics like access to higher education and completion of college, California gets a failing grade. Only on one key metric – college preparation – do we earn an acceptable grade. And even on this important issue, there is much room for improvement.

To close the still growing gap between the rich and poor we need to dramatically increase access to college and lifelong learning and make sure students can earn degrees and certificates without crushing debt.

The foundation of attracting and retaining high-wage jobs is making sure we have highly trained workers ready for these jobs. According to this report, we must produce 1.7 million more degrees over the next decade.

That’s a big goal, but with the help of great advocates like the folks at the Campaign for College Opportunity, we can get there.

Find out more and read the full report at http://collegecampaign.org/RaisetheGrades.

California summary of grades a failing grade on college access california college antonio villaraigosa for governor

More News and Views

Neglecting Children’s Nutritional Needs Will Negatively Impact Their Ability to Learn

Neglecting Children’s Nutritional Needs Will Negatively Impact Their Ability to Learn

  • Share this Article

I have the honor of calling former First Lady Michelle Obama my friend. Our friendship developed while I chaired the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and through our work with the California FreshWorks Fund, a program that brings healthy food options to under-served communities.

Recently, Mrs. Obama criticized an announcement that the Trump Administration made regarding school lunches. The current Administration stated that it would delay the implementation of regulations issued under the Obama Administration, which required reducing the sodium content of school lunches and delivering healthier meals to our children. Like Mrs. Obama, I too believe neglecting children’s nutritional needs will have a negative impact on their ability to learn.

While I was the Mayor of Los Angeles, my number one passion was public education. I recognized that our children will not be able to focus on learning if they live in communities where they do not feel safe walking to school. The same holds true of ensuring that all children have access to healthy food. If our children are not well nourished, their brains cannot be nourished either.

If the current Administration is not going to take responsibility for our children’s health or education, then as Californians, we have to lead by example. Unfortunately, we are falling short of this obligation. According to the California Association of Food Banks, almost one in four children in California may go to bed hungry every night. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) statistics place California in the bottom half of states in terms of K-12 educational achievement. These statistics suggest that we are not meeting the needs of our most vulnerable population, children. In order to help them succeed, we need to consider the whole child, not just their test scores.

Investing in our schools means investing in our children’s health, safety and education. As governor, I will work with communities — local leaders, families, healthcare providers, principals, and teachers — to distribute our resources properly, ensuring the success of our children who are the future leaders of our State and Nation.

You can check out Michelle Obama’s interview here and our work with the California FreshWorks Fund here.

More News and Views

Progressive Is a Dream Delivered

Progressive Is a Dream Delivered

  • Share this Article

When it comes to the millions of Californians under attack by the President, we are on the front lines, standing arm in arm together — Black and White, Asian and Latino, gay and straight, Muslim, Christian and Jewish.

Ready to fight back, ready to resist.

But as the nation looks to us, let’s not forget to look in the mirror because we can’t be truly progressive unless we are making progress together. Progressive is more than just a promise or a platitude. Progressive is a dream delivered.

Many of us are already empowered to speak, to learn and to prosper, but too many in our state are still left out or left behind.

Our Democratic Party must listen to the left out and forgotten — those: forced to work for substandard wages; required to send their kids to inadequate schools; fighting for job training and job creation; fighting for affordable housing, a cleaner environment and green jobs.

We are here to fight for the soul of our party and our most cherished values.

There are some who have never been in the trenches, in the fight for social and economic justice. These Davos Democrats fly over the homes of Californians left behind — have never been in their living rooms.

What will make us stronger as a party is to spend more time fighting, not just for the people who drive Teslas, but for the people who ride the bus, like my mom. We earn our stripes by standing up for people struggling to get the gas money to take their used car to work.

From National City to the North Coast, millions of Californians are struggling. Along the coast, housing costs are making middle-class families poor and forcing the poor out altogether. In the inland valley, too many cannot find decent jobs — or any jobs at all.

The Davos Democrats talk about reform. But while they talk, the gap between rich and poor grows wider. The achievement gap between poor, working-class kids and rich kids grows larger. Even the life expectancy gap becomes greater.

Standing up to Trump takes more than just talk — or Tweets. It takes action.

We know the answers; let’s have the courage to deliver them.

First, every child in this state must have access to early childhood education. Every single child. Every kid deserves a great public school. The struggle for educational equity is the most important civil rights battle of our generation. I refuse to accept the notion that poor children can’t learn. That we, as Progressives, can fail them.

The single most important investment we can make in creating high-wage jobs and closing the income gap is sending more students to college and providing access to life-long learning.

The next governor must dramatically expand our system of higher education and eliminate the barrier of up-front costs for every poor and working-class family.

Health care is a right — not a privilege. The Affordable Care Act is bringing life-saving and life-changing care to 3.7 million Californians. We must first refuse to let this progress be undone — and then continue the fight for a sustainable health care system that offers quality and affordable care to every single California resident.

Our broken housing market has become a new form of redlining — separating the rich from the poor, deepening our economic divide and keeping families out of the middle class.

The next governor must do more than make a million promises — we need to focus on building millions of homes that working and middle class families can afford.

Our regulations are broken, making it too hard to start a small business while failing to hold powerful corporations accountable. We waive CEQA to build stadiums, but make poor families wait years for decent housing.

Let’s have the courage to stand with those who need our help — not those who can demand it through political connections and fat checkbooks.

If we want to fight Trump, we must start by bringing millions of Californians out of the shadows — legal shadows, economic shadows, educational shadows.

There is a dream we share as Californians. One that has touched many of us — and inspired us all.

It’s a state where no voice is dismissed and no dream is denied.

If we want to end the nightmare of Donald Trump, we must begin by renewing our faith and commitment to ourselves and to each other — to our very own California Dream.

More News and Views

EAST BAY TIMES: Mobile Apps for Undocumented Immigrants Mark New Era in Technology

EAST BAY TIMES: Mobile Apps for Undocumented Immigrants Mark New Era in Technology

  • Share this Article

This article originally appeared in the East Bay Times.

By: Tatiana Sanchez

With the press of a digital “panic” button, immigrants detained by ICE may soon be able to send customized, encrypted messages to friends and family from their mobile phones in a last-minute attempt to share final parting words or critical information.

Notifica, which has yet to launch, is just one mobile app being developed for immigrants at a time when both legal and undocumented immigrants are increasingly worried about their status in the U.S. Others are working on tools that provide real-time alerts about ICE raids and information on legal resources.

While apps aimed at helping immigrant communities have been around for years, developing digital safety nets and resources for this growing market has taken on new urgency in the wake of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“A lot of people in the tech community have been upset with what happened after the election and want to do something about it,” said Natalia Margolis, a software engineer at the digital agency Huge who partnered with Notifica founder Adrian Reyna to design the app. “Trump winning the election was certainly a wake up call to a lot of people.”

Potential users of these apps have grown exponentially in recent years — an estimated 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind and the share of those who own smartphones is now 77 percent, up from 35 percent in 2011, when Pew Research Center conducted its first survey of smartphone ownership.

An estimated 98 percent of U.S. Latinos own cellphones, according to Pew. Within that group, about 75 percent own smartphones.

So far, there are about 8,000 people on a waiting list to download Notifica, according to Reyna, director of membership and technology strategies for the national immigrant rights organization, United We Dream.

As an undocumented resident himself, Reyna understands what’s needed: “In a moment when you don’t know what to do because everything is crashing down on you and you’re trying to get a hold of many people at the same time … we want to narrow that down to one thing.”

The app gained national attention after its debut at the SXSW conference last month.

Notifica, or “notify,” works with the press of a button by sending out a message blast to up to 15 of the person’s trusted contacts in a matter of seconds. The messages are pre-loaded and protected by a PIN number, which users share with loved ones. All communication is deleted from the app once the messages are sent out, according to Reyna. If they don’t have immediate access to their cellphones, users can also call a hotline to have the messages sent out at a later time.

Gabriel Belmonte, of San Jose, described the app as “a good resource to send out any status reports.” The 35-year-old, who has temporary deportation relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said younger people would be much more likely to use the app.

“For any apps, it’s really the younger people that take precedence in using it,” he said. “There’s a disconnection between the older generation” and the younger generation.”

Technology has made a natural progression into the realm of immigration, but “the Trump administration has accelerated this, especially in Silicon Valley,” said Eduardo Gaitan, co-founder of the Arrived app, which provides a one-stop shop of resources for immigrants, from housing and education to employment and deportation. The app launched in 2016.

“Most companies are feeling the effects of the new administration directly. I think it’s at the top of everyone’s mind,” said Gaitan, a Google employee.

The app’s founders are considering adding an emergency feature in which users can send custom messages in a variety of languages, much like Notifica.

“Mobile technology is moving into more and more spheres, and immigration makes a lot of sense,” said co-founder William McLaughlin. “It makes sense to have something that addresses one of the biggest challenges one can face.”

Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said, “Technology is going to do what it’s going to do.”

“It can inform people about what their options are, but in the end, if ICE and the administration are intent on enforcing the law, then it’s going to happen,” he added.

Software developer Celso Mireles is building a tool that delivers real-time alerts about nearby ICE raids or checkpoints. RedadAlertas, or “Raid Alerts,” will start off as a web app accessible through a website and text message-based alerts, according to Mireles, who plans to eventually build a mobile app.

“These alerts will inform vulnerable immigrants of risks they may face in their neighborhood or workplace,” Mireles wrote on a website for the app. “They will also enable legal aid groups, community organizations and activists to respond rapidly to protect immigrant communities.”

Apps for undocumented immigrants
Notifica: With the press of a button, immigrants who have been detained by ICE can send customized, encrypted messages to friends and family from their mobile phone.

Arrived: Created by a team largely composed of Google employees, the app aims to empower immigrants with knowledge on a variety of topics, from housing and education to jobs and deportation.

RedadAlertas: Delivers real-time, verified alerts about nearby ICE raids or checkpoints.

More News and Views

Don’t Let Millions of Children Live in Fear of Being Separated from their Family

Don’t Let Millions of Children Live in Fear of Being Separated from their Family

  • Share this Article

The current Administration forgets that our nation stands on values and ideals that protect our freedom and peace of mind. Don’t let millions of children live in fear of being separated from their family.

You can join us by signing our petition and telling the administration, “No ban, no wall.”

More News and Views

What to Do If ICE Officers Are at Your Door

What to Do If ICE Officers Are at Your Door

  • Share this Article

With the stroke of a pen, President Donald Trump vindicated the fear and anxiety incited by his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric—signing an executive order enhancing immigration enforcement and deportation. As a result, there have been reports of multiple U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country, which netted the arrest of more than 680 immigrants in one week, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

However, whatever the executive order, this is America, which means we still have the Constitution and the people still have rights. Everyone should know your rights and should know what to do if immigration officers are at your door.

If officers are at your door (courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union):

  • Stay calm and do not open the door.
  • Speak through the door and ask what they are there for.
  • Ask for an interpreter if you need one.
  • Ask if they have a warrant signed by a judge.
    • If they have a warrant signed by a judge, ask to see it (through a window or slipped under the door).
    • If they do NOT have a warrant signed by a judge, you can refuse to let them in. Instead, ask them to leave any information at your door.

Remember an ICE administrative warrant (Form I-200, I-205) does not allow officers to enter your home.

If officers force their way in, don’t resist and tell everyone in the residence to remain silent.

If you are arrested, remain silent.

Do not sign anything until you speak to a lawyer.

The Immigrant Defense Project advises undocumented immigrants to have a plan in place for if they or a family member is arrested. Organize all important documents (passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates and medical records) and store in a secure location. “It is important that neither you nor your family members give ICE your passport,” the organization said.

When dealing with ICE agents, make sure to report and record everything that happens, unless you are on federal government property. “Take notes of badge numbers, number of agents, time, type of car and exactly what happened!” Cases have been known to be dismissed when there was enough documentation to prove that ICE officers acted outside of the law.

Clearly, the Trump administration is making good on their promise to target immigrants. This is not just about “criminal” immigrants; in a meeting with members of Congress, ICE officials acknowledged that at least 186 of those apprehended had no criminal history. Further, there have been reports of some of the most vulnerable being targeted.

In El Paso, ICE agents showed up at a courthouse where an undocumented woman was seeking a protective order against the boyfriend she accused of abusing her—she left under arrest. In Alexandria, Virginia, two men leaving a homeless shelter at the Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church, were met by ICE agents.

Now, the Associated Press reports that President Trump considered using as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants, which would be an unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement.

We must stand together and protect each other. No one should be ripped away from their family for the ‘crime’ of wanting to work, study and participate in our great democracy. Sign our petition and tell President Trump, “NO!” to these draconian immigration policies. #NoBanNoWall

For more information, go to:

More News and Views

Villaraigosa: Trump Immigration Policy Breaks Up Families, Makes America Less Safe

Villaraigosa: Trump Immigration Policy Breaks Up Families, Makes America Less Safe

  • Share this Article

Los Angeles, CA – Former Los Angeles Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa issued the following statement on changes to The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policies, which will drastically expand the number of immigrants subjected to immediate deportation.

“The last thing we should be doing is militarizing our immigration enforcement and terrorizing vulnerable people and communities,” Villaraigosa said. “Instead, we should focus on working with the immigrant community and implementing comprehensive reform.”

In a shift from the Obama administration, President Donald Trump will no longer prioritize enforcement efforts targeting those who commit serious crimes or who are a threat to national security. Instead, the new policies will target those who may have minor violations such as a speeding ticket or are simply suspected of such a violation.

“Millions of immigrants will now live in fear that any action, no matter how minor, will result in their deportation. We are already seeing immigrants who are more fearful of working with local law enforcement as that interaction could result in the break-up of their families. Just last week, a woman was targeted for deportation for reporting domestic abuse. Under the Trump administration’s actions, many more will worry that false charges will lead to their removal. This is a terrible thing to do to an already vulnerable population.

“I continue to stand with our immigrant community in the face of policies designed to provoke anxiety and fear – policies that will make immigrants more vulnerable and all of us less safe.”

More News and Views

“We Can’t Truly Be Progressive Unless All of California Is Making Progress.”

“We Can’t Truly Be Progressive Unless All of California Is Making Progress.”

  • Share this Article

Antonio Villaraigosa’s remarks at the California Latino Economic Institute Forum on February 1, 2017.

Thank you. I’m excited to be with you here today. These days, I find it particularly reassuring to be among my fellow Californians.

As the threat of the Trump Presidency becomes all too real – Californians are uniting as never before. Millions marching to protect: our health care, a woman’s reproductive freedoms, civil rights and civil liberties, and to defend California immigrants and their families facing arrest and deportation.

President Trump seeks to divide us from our third largest trading partner and closest neighbor to the south ­with a wasteful wall on our border, which could cost up to $40 billion dollars to build. He proposes a religious test for refugees—contrary to our Constitution. These policies create walls of division and distrust, pitting: Muslims against Christians and Jews, documented against undocumented, wealthy against working people.

Here in California, we are not allowing ourselves to be divided. Instead, we are uniting around a common purpose – to defend our values and protect the people of our state.

California has long been a beacon of hope for the nation and the world. We have welcomed millions who share a vision of freedom, tolerance and opportunity. These newcomers have joined with long-time residents to help build a dynamic economy and a rich multi-cultural society.

But as we stand up for our values, we must also remember what we are fighting for.

While it is important that we uphold our progressive principles, it is imperative that we take stock of how well we are doing to make economic progress a reality for the many Californians who have been left behind.

Silicon Valley is booming so fast it can’t house its employees, while the Central Valley is home to some of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Most of the communities along our coast are flourishing, while too many of California’s inland communities are languishing.  Travel a few miles from Brentwood to Boyle Heights or a long distance from Hillsborough to Huron, and you will see that there are still two Californias – one largely white and wealthy, the other largely Latino and poor.

We shouldn’t resent the wealth of our coast, but we must create policies that extend economic opportunity to every corner of our state – and to everyone in California.

That’s why the last thing we can be is complacent. We have more wealth, but also more poverty than many states in the nation.

California is the sixth-largest economy in the world. Yet, housing affordability is slipping away in a state where homeownership is at its lowest since the 1940s. The California dream is harder and harder to achieve for a middle class that is actually shrinking for the first time in nearly a century.

Too often where you live determines how much you earn and even how long you will live. The life expectancy in Marin County, the highest in the state, is nearly 8 years longer than the life expectancy in Kern County in the Central Valley.

This growing inequality is threatening the very fabric of our society. And we can’t be truly progressive, unless all of California is making progress.

Economic inequality has grown because our policies have not kept pace with our changing economy. As in other states, California has lost many good-paying jobs and replaced them with jobs that pay low wages.

Today, the cost of housing, child care and higher education soar, while wages stagnate.

These changes coincide with a major demographic shift in our state. We are now a plurality Latino state, on our way to become a majority Latino state.

At precisely the moment Latinos have become the largest ethnic group in California, the promise of a better life is growing farther and farther out of reach.

If the recent election taught us anything, the erosion of economic opportunity gives space to the politics of fear. That’s why the work of organizations like yours is so important.

At this moment, California must lead. And because Latinos will soon to be the majority of this state, we must lead. We must help this state become a national example of how to build a successful 21st Century Economy that creates more middle-class jobs for more people. We must work to preserve the fundamental notion that anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules ought to have a clear path for a better life.

Californians remember that voters lashing out amid economic anxiety is nothing new. As a state, we’ve seen this movie before.

I was first elected to the Assembly in 1994 on the heels of a deep recession that plunged our state billions of dollars into debt and sent unemployment sky high.

This gave rise to the scapegoating of immigrants, culminating with Proposition 187, the elimination of bilingual education and affirmative action.

During my six years in Sacramento, I worked with leaders from both parties, forging common ground to find solutions to the problems facing our state.

We created a children’s healthcare program that extended coverage to 750,000 children across the state. When the federal government stripped public support for legal immigrants, we helped bring people together to ensure those benefits were covered here in California.  We raised per pupil spending and made progress in improving our schools.

Latinos were a minority then – building a broad coalition of people from across the state who understood that these policies were in our collective best interest.

Now that we are soon to be the majority, let’s remember that moment. We endured because we were not alone.

Let’s remember the hand of friendship extended to us back then when our Muslim neighbors are besieged by bigotry today. Let’s remember the support given to us when women are being denied basic health care. Let’s recall who stood with us when it is time to stand together to protect the LGBT community, our environment, students from deportation.

But at this pivotal moment, being progressive also means promoting economic policies that help lift all Californians into the middle class.

In my own public career, I have never run as “the Latino” candidate or served as a “Latino” elected official. I have always sought to unite all people around a common purpose.

However, I am a proud American, but equally proud of my Mexican heritage. I know that California was built on the backs of so many who came so far in the pursuit of the American dream. People like my grandpa Pete who came from León, Guanajuato Mexico at the turn of the century.

We are Americans first and foremost, but if anyone wants to make our Mexican heritage an issue, we will not shy from that. We embrace our Latino heritage as every bit a part of our American heritage.

Because blind-eye bigots don’t know what we know. Latinos stepping up to take leadership is not a threat to American values. It is an emphatic embrace of the American values of reveling in our diversity and welcoming our newcomers.

Latinos want and need what all Californians want and need. A stronger economy – creating more middle-class jobs.

Many of our kids need access to early childhood education to a greater degree than others and so the fight for quality pre-school for every child is not political – it is deeply personal.

For the parents of Latino children, children who now make up the majority of our public schools in California, improving those schools isn’t a campaign slogan – it is absolutely necessary to the opportunity we all aspire to.

Because so many of our families must commute hours from distant homes, we understand that affordable housing close to jobs and excellent transit is not some nice-sounding position paper – it is an absolute necessity.

Because it is now Latino kids flooding into the community colleges, CSUs and UCs, opening up access to free and affordable higher education for everyone is not an abstract idea – it is an immediate priority.

Because so many Latino kids literally go hungry when there isn’t enough water to grow our crops, we know it is not an option to choose between protecting our wildlife or providing the state with the water it needs to grow – we must absolutely have both.

The promise of America cannot be an elusive abstract. It must be concrete and reachable by more of us.

Opportunity. Opportunity for all. The freedom to work and prosper together. These are the core promises of America that the diverse communities of California understand and embrace.

And because we embrace the freedom to succeed through our own hard work – we are not ready to settle for the tyranny of false choices.

We do not need to make a choice between growing our economy, improving our business climate and protecting our environment or closing the income gap. We can and must do it all. We must clear the path for our businesses to prosper, but ensure that we are prospering together.

We must safeguard the rights and hard-earned pensions of our employees while protecting the next generation of California’s workers who must pay for these pensions. I launched my career as a union organizer fighting for the rights of workers. I was tested as Mayor of California’s largest city – where I saw “balanced” budgets were too often balanced on the backs of the poor and the powerless.

I, for one, will not ignore the challenge of paying for future obligations in a way that protects workers today and poor children tomorrow.

We can protect rights of teachers and promote better schools for our children. Our teachers need to earn more. Our teachers and parents need to be heard more. Our kids need to learn more. We can – and must – do it all.

We here today understand that as Latinos become the majority of this state – our success is California’s success.

Because we take so deeply to heart the promise of America, our presence strengthens America.

Because our idealism is tempered by the reality of too much poverty and too few economic opportunities, our focus on growing the middle class will create wealth and opportunity for everyone.

This is not just a Latino moment. This is a California moment. And indeed, an American moment.

So, thank you for your time, for the work you do and for joining the fight to ensure that we meet this moment to find a better way forward together.

More News and Views