In the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, our family learned early on the importance of courage and determination. My abuelos began selling melons from the back of their truck under the scorching South Texas sun. Over time, they saved enough to buy a modest brick house, of which my Grandma Mela is very proud. 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 deployments to Iraq, my brother retired from the Air Force. Before entering the world of politics, I ran successful small businesses for over two decades. Last year, I became the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress from Texas’ 15th District, which includes McAllen, Seguin and other areas of South Texas. I can’t help but think that when my abuelitos look down from heaven, they are overjoyed at what our family has accomplished.
As Hispanic Heritage Month approaches, it pains me to think that so many Latinos fear that future generations will not have the same opportunities I did. According to a recent study According to the Libre Initiative, 79 percent of Hispanics view the economy negatively, while a whopping eight in 10 respondents fear their children will not have the same opportunities they had as adults. This is not the future I or anyone else wants for my children, and yet it is the harsh reality that many Hispanics face today.
That was not always so. Over the past decade, Hispanics have experienced remarkable declines in poverty and higher homeownership rates while leading the nation in new small business creation. Then the pandemic struck, and its devastating health impact was exacerbated by lockdown measures that decimated countless small businesses. By a two-to-one ratio, Hispanics now expect another economic downturn, while an impressive 84 percent say they are affected by inflation.
We can trace many of our economic challenges to decades of misguided policies from both parties that have only gotten worse under the current administration. President Biden’s inflation agenda has hurt all Americans, but has been particularly burdensome for Hispanic families.
Census data paints a vivid picture: On average, Latino households are one person larger than households in other demographic groups. In places like McAllen, Texas, grandparents, mothers, fathers and retired children often live in the same house. This living arrangement is nice and enriching, but under Bidenomics it also means more mouths to feed and less money to spend.
Against this bleak economic backdrop, many Hispanics are reconsidering their political loyalties. This shift is noticeable in heavily Hispanic working-class communities like mine. In 2018, Democrats carried Hidalgo County by more than 40 points. Fast forward to my election four years later, and we narrowed that gap by almost 30 percentage points.
Hispanics also reject far-left politics in urban areas such as New York and Los Angeles. It is easy for elites to embrace utopian criminal justice experiments from the comfort of gated communities. After all, it’s not their bodegas that are being robbed. They also do not suffer the consequences of a ruthless border policy.
While some extremists on the other side of the aisle are angering Latinos, House Republicans are committed 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.
Polls show that Hispanics’ political priorities also include issues such as health care and the environment. Instead of avoiding these problems, we have had success in places as diverse as Texas, Florida and Virginia when Republicans have addressed these concerns with sensible policies.
For example, in Congress, I am leading a bipartisan initiative to ensure clean water for my community. Earlier this year, I co-sponsored legislation to protect our abuelitos’ Medicare and Social Security benefits and fought to increase women’s access to life-saving breast cancer treatments. As a mother of two, I am particularly proud to have recently introduced the Healthy Babies Act, a common-sense proposal to give parents in nutrition assistance programs access to better food options for their children.
My focus on quality of life issues and a no-nonsense approach to leadership comes from a belief shared by millions of Latinos who have 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 facing working families, I have no doubt that we can expand our big tent with millions of new Republican Latinos.
Let us be committed to building a future in which every child can look forward to greater opportunities than ever before. As my family’s story shows, this is not just a vision; It’s 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 author’s own.