Rafael Anchia empowers Latinos throughout the U.S.
by Jesse Garcia
In 2010, America faces a contentious battle over Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Although immigrants come from every part of the world, the Latino community bears the brunt of attacks by conservative talk show hosts, newspapers and politicians who regularly target Mexican immigrants. The anti-immigrant industry has blamed the undocumented and their children for the country’s economic downturn in order to attract ratings, advertising dollars and Election Day votes. Challenging this anti-Hispanic movement is Rafael Anchia, the proud son of a Mexican mother and a Spanish father. Not only is he disproving every lie spoken against new Americans, Anchia is also empowering the Hispanic community to stand up and take charge of its own destiny.
Anchia began fighting for the little guy even before he had any official power to do so. After he graduated from Southern Methodist University with honors, he attended Tulane University in New Orleans to study law. At that time, Anchia helped draft a law that required the state of Louisiana to appoint an ombudsman to monitor conditions in nursing homes, and he served as a volunteer advocate for immigrant detainees who were denied the benefit of counsel. His education, passion for the law, and desire to help the less fortunate led him to public service in Dallas.
“My elected public service is pure serendipity. I had never run for anything in my life before getting elected to the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees in 2001. I always knew I wanted to help others, but never thought I would do it in an elected capacity,” said Anchia. In 2004, Anchia was elected to represent District 103, where he lives with his wife, Marissa, and their two daughters. The district includes North Oak Cliff, West Dallas, La Bajada, Los Altos, Love Field, North Park and portions of the cities of Irving, Farmers Branch and Carrollton. During his three terms as a state representative, Anchia earned numerous awards, including the North Texas Crime Commission’s “Legislative Crime Fighter of the Year” and Texas Monthly’s “Rookie of the Year” (first term) and “Ten Best Legislators” (second term).
Last year, Anchia made headlines when he took on conservatives in the legislature to stop the infamous Voter ID bill that would require every Texas citizen to provide more identification before casting a ballot. Anchia believes that voting is a fundamental right and that every U.S. citizen should be allowed to participate, not discouraged.
“Our community is full of honest, hard-working people who want a better quality of life for themselves and their families,” said Anchia. “As their neighbor elected to represent them in Austin, I want to support those hopes and aspirations.”
InfórmateDFW: More than 32 percent of Texas is Hispanic (more than 6.6 million people). Yet there are no Hispanics serving in elected statewide offices. Why is it important for Hispanics to show up to the polls? And do you think we are on the verge of seeing a Hispanic elected to statewide government?
RA: It is certainly important for the Latino electorate in the state of Texas to continue to show up at the polls. However, to elect a Latino to statewide office, it is more important to develop candidates who have the ability to effectively run and win statewide. Increasing the Latino electorate alone does not necessarily mean Latinos will be elected to statewide office. Latino voters have demonstrated that they are willing to cross party lines and ethnicity in support of candidates who address the issues they care most about. Since the issues that are important to Latinos are important to all Texans (the economy, education and healthcare), Latino candidates need to continue to demonstrate they can effectively address the issues of concern to Texas voters.
Infórmate DFW: Why is it important to vote in every election, from school board to president?
RA: Our communities are affected by the decisions that elected officials, at all levels of office, make every single day and in every aspect of their life. Voting and impacting the outcome of who represents us in these decisions and quality of life issues is extremely important. Voters should care that the people who get elected to office represent their views and priorities and hold them accountable to those things when they run for re-election.
InfórmateDFW: You are involved with the “ya es hora” campaign. Tell us about it.
RA: In January 2007, one of the largest civic engagement campaigns in recent U.S. history was launched: ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! This campaign was coordinated to inform, educate and motivate eligible legal permanent residents across the United States to apply for citizenship. Over 400 organizations nationwide contributed to ya es hora’s success in surpassing its goal of motivating over 1,000,000 legal permanent residents to apply for U.S. citizenship. In U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fiscal Year 2008 – nearly half a million Latino actually became U.S. citizens. The ya es hora Campaign continued in 2008 by informing and motivating eligible Latinos to register and vote in the Presidential Election.
This effort contributed to a record voter turnout – nearly 10 million Latinos cast a ballot. Ya es hora will continue by promoting a full enumeration of the Latino community in the 2010 Census with ya es hora ¡HAGASE CONTAR! (It ’s time, make yourself count).
InfórmateDFW: What can Hispanics in North Texas do today to prevent more anti-Hispanic legislation from being introduced in the state legislature?
RA: One of the ways that the Latino community can yield more influence is by participating in the upcoming 2010 Census. A full count of the Latino community will ensure that North Texas, and the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex, receive their fair share of federal funding to provide critical services to our community. These include everything from funding schools and building hospitals to ensuring that our roads are well-kept and safe. … [A]s Latinos gain political influence, elected officials must become more representative and supportive of the issues important to Hispanic families.
InfórmateDFW: You are a father of two daughters. What advice will you give them about how to make it in this world?
RA: “My father taught me the value of hard work. My mother taught me to have high expectations. The Bible teaches us that helping others is our highest calling. I want to pass those values along to my daughters.
InfórmateDFW: What is your favorite ‘dicho’?
RA: ‘Dime con quien andas y te digo quien eres’ and ‘El que es buen entendedor, con pocas palabras tiene.’