My name is Hunter Avilio Thomas. I am the son of a Mexican immigrant. Mi mama came to the U.S. with a few thousand dollars in her pocket, not a lick of English, and in search of the American dream. Mi abuelo, Avilio Salinas, was a taxi driver in Mexico City; a working-class man who put his head down and worked to put food on the table. Mi abuela, Mercedes Salinas was a proud stay-at-home mother, who would anxiously wait for her children to come home from school with tortillas con sal.
My father is from North Carolina. His family never had much money growing up. Money was a point of contention for his family. His life was unstable, often changing schools due to financial strain. Throughout high school, my dad had to work multiple jobs to help pay for the bills. His working-class background pushed him to be the first in his family to go to graduate school.
My family is a symbol of the American dream. Immigrant. Working-class. Fighter. Underdog.
For the past few years, I have been reluctant to tell others that I am a conservative. I am a rare specimen in politics: a Hispanic and a conservative. I speak fluent Spanish, I was raised in a border state, and I lived in Mexico both as a child and as an adult. I believe in conservatism because of its belief in free markets, limited government, and freedom.
People often see my political ideology and ethnicity as a conundrum. They often connect Republican to Donald Trump. They instantly think I am a Trump loyalist, ready to defend his every move. The truth is this: it’s not easy being Republican and Hispanic today. Interestingly enough, this is why I am still a conservative. I want to help the party realize the potential it has, especially to court Latinos. Last November, I wrote to the BYU Political Review about how the GOP can make inroads with Latinos by focusing on social issues and finding a pragmatic solution to immigration. But, I don’t think I’ve been clear enough.
I am ready to stand up and tell the world that yes, you can be a conservative and a Hispanic. I am tired of keeping myself quiet. I am tired of being judged. I am proud of who I am as an American, specifically a fluent Spanish-speaking Mexican-America and as a Republican. On both sides of the aisle, I view that there are two extremes. That doesn’t need to be. Quite simply, both parties do not sincerely care about the Latino community. I want to change that.
The Latino community is the future of the country. Some reports say that by 2045, one-third of the population will be of Latin American heritage. I believe in the next few decades that Americans will be ready to put the immigration debate to rest. In short terms, I believe we can pass a common-sense immigration reform that looks something like this:
- Putting up a barrier (a combination of physical and technological and wall) on the Southern border to stop drugs and criminals from entering the country.
- Use E-verify and a visa tracking system to help American employers keep tabs on foreign workers.
- Once we’ve done that, it’s time to pass immigration reform. The first thing is to give the 12 million undocumented immigrants a legal status to work legally and find jobs that move our economy forward and in areas specifically where Americans don’t work as much as the agricultural sector.
- Legal status would be dependent on paying fines, similar to how people adjust their immigration status and pay the necessary fines to do so. Priority would be given to immigrants who have contributed to the U.S. such as small business owners and immigrants who are fluent in English.
- Balance out family-based immigration with skilled workers. Our system is primarily based on family-based immigration, I believe that while the government should continue to put family-based immigrants as a priority, our system should also give more priority than now for those who have studied in their respective nations, speak English, and wish to work/live in the United States.
We don’t need to see this as black or white. We need a next-generation immigration system that is in the national interest of our country, but at the same time is considerate of the hard-working immigrants who wish to contribute and participate in the American dream, like my mother. I understand that some immigrants come here and commit crimes and may even become dependent on the government. I believe if we have lawmakers who come together to work on the above principles I’ve listed, we can finally have an immigration system that not only works but balances out enforcing the law and let hard-working immigrants in the country.
My vision for the country and (for my party) is that we can be pro-American and pro-immigrant. This may be an optimistic view of things, but remember, my family is a symbol of the American dream. I believe in America and what it is. This the fabric of my political ideology as a conservative: that this country is not just great, that it is exceptional. This the land of dreams and opportunity. The land of freedom and liberty. This is a beacon of hope and light for the rest of the world. As Ronald Reagan once said, we are that shining city on a hill.
Enough of the hateful rhetoric and the division. Enough of the political games. It’s time we stand up for the promise of America: e pluribus unum, out of many, one.