Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, said Tuesday he feels more Latinos need to be appointed to top-level positions in the next presidential administration, and not just to positions focusing on immigration and labor.
During a panel discussion and briefing on Latino political participation, Garcetti noted that recognizing the power of the Latino vote is not enough, and more Latinos need to be placed in positions of power in the federal government.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which organized the panel discussion, projects that the number of Latinos expected to vote in November is expected to grow by more than 30 percent to 13.1 million, up from the 9.7 million who voted in the 2008 presidential
“I think that we still have (presidential) candidates who are getting comfortable with the Latino community,” said Garcetti, who recently joined the NALEO board. “There’s not anybody really speaking with the fluency that I think we need to see.”
With appointments made under the recent two Democratic presidential administrations, “there’s like this ceiling,” he said.
“We have to figure out a way to make that very clear … when President Clinton, the next President Clinton is in place, that you know, a cabinet position or two isn’t enough.”
Garcetti added that those who have the power to make the appointments often complain there are not enough qualified Latinos for the positions, but he feels they are not searching hard enough.
“I think they’re looking for Latinos with big names,” said Garcetti, whose paternal grandfather was born in Mexico. “Latinos don’t have big names, and so it becomes a vicious cycle.”
Garcetti added he is concerned that, especially with Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s stance on illegal immigration, Latino leaders will again be relegated to dealing with issues like immigration or equal employment, and not be considered for positions in other areas.
“We’re put back into a box,” he said. “If you’re silent that’s unacceptable, we let that happen, but if you speak out, we’re speaking out to, again, just be defending ourselves on issues of immigration.
“We can’t get to education, we can’t be the leaders on national security, we can’t be the U.N. ambassador, we can’t do the things that was the next step. He pushed us back into playing an old game.”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a former Los Angeles City Councilman, was also part of the panel with Garcetti. He painted a more optimistic picture, saying that Trump could galvanize Latino voters in the same way as California’s Proposition 187 in 1994 — which sought to restrict access to public services for immigrants who entered the country illegally — by drawing more Latinos into the political arena at a national level.
Garcetti, noting that he is slated to speak at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, said he wants to use his speech to steer the election from just responding to Trump, and from treating the convention merely as an audition for the 2020 election.
“It’s actually about what is the work the two of them are going to do, because it’s not about an election,” he said. “We fixate on national elections and I guarantee you, I ran into somebody, you know, who was already talking about candidates for 2020, and we haven’t even held this election …
it’s not what can we do for this country for four years. So how we govern in between is how we get millennials and how we get our community activated.”
Garcetti’s campaign adviser Bill Carrick said the mayor’s convention speaking time has not been confirmed.
Garcetti on Monday also took part in a news conference with labor groups to promote raising the minimum wage. In addition to the NALEO panel, Garcetti also joined a luncheon of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
On Thursday, he is scheduled to attend the breakfast hosted by the California delegation and a panel by the Brady Campaign on the use of guns in hate crimes.