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John Florez: After election, politicians realize the face of America has changed

Published: Saturday, Nov. 17 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Voters leave a polling place on election day on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn.

Associated Press

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"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Just as Dorothy knew something had changed, many now feel the same about the new demographics in America. It took this year's election for politicians and others to realize that the face of America has changed. According to Paul Taylor of the Pew Institute, "We are mid-passage in a century-long journey from the middle of the last century, when we were nearly a 90 percent white nation, to the middle of this coming century, when we will be a majority-minority nation."

The losing party is now searching and wondering why so much of the minority, especially the Latino vote, was lost. Consultants led them to believe that Latinos were more aligned with their values of family and being pro-life. However, Latinos are more than that; they are compassionate, care for the downtrodden, care about justice and are proud. They want what all parents want — an education for their children that will let their kids have a better life than they have.

Now more are taking a second look at our outdated immigration policies in order to gain support of Latinos for the next election. However, that alone may appear condescending. To gain the Latino vote, the rhetoric will have to change and public policies should be created with participation of Latinos, rather than mere token gestures. It starts with showing respect and appreciation for the contributions Latinos have made to build this nation. Immigrants should not be seen as the cause for our nation's problems, rather an asset in moving America forward in a world that has changed dramatically.

America has always used immigration as an economic and workforce solution. Whenever we had a worker shortage, we turned to foreign labor — the building of our railroads, mines, farms and orchards. When our men went to war, it was foreign labor that was brought in to keep our country growing, and many Latinos later enlisted in the armed services to protect our country. Many have won medals of honor.

If politicians want to win the Latino vote, they must touch the soul of the Latino culture, which includes a deep dedication to family, justice, fairness, loyalty and a sense of community. Latinos are a proud people, which runs deep and is called "orgullo." Successful businesses and employers benefit from the loyalty of Latinos.

The American dream was built by those immigrants who landed on this continent seeking freedom and a better life with nothing more than a dream, the willingness to risk and a strong work ethic. They asked for nothing except to be free from tyranny and an opportunity to seek a better life. It was true then, and even more so today. It's what fuels the entrepreneurial spirit we see in Utah — from Maurice Warshaw's fruit cart that became a grocery store chain in Utah to Nathan Rosenblatt's junk wagon that became EIMCO, an international company, and today's taco stands are destined to succeed because of the American dream.

Globalization and technology have created a flat world that is interconnected. If we are to succeed in the new world, we must cultivate the diverse and untapped talent that exists in our minority communities and see immigration as a way of enriching and revitalizing America's capacity to compete in the world marketplace.

Seven years ago, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was the first leader in Utah to advocate for enlightened and humane immigration policies and their importance to America's economy. Since then, Utah's leaders have continued to build on those principles. Like Dorothy, they know they are no longer in Kansas.

A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education. Email him at jdflorez@comcast.net.

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