The Lone Star state is home to the second-largest immigrant community in the country, yet in the last Texas legislative session, more than 80 anti-immigrant bills were proposed, from stripping in-state tuition for undocumented students to proposals that would deny citizenship to the Texas-born children of undocumented parents. In the face of such hostility, Jolt seeks to shift the narrative on immigration, defending the rights of immigrant and Latino families in Texas, while simultaneously working to develop a culture of civic engagement through which the state’s 10.8 million Latinos can feel they have a meaningful stake in their communities. Because 37% of the state’s Latino population is under age 17, Jolt seeks to achieve its goals by organizing Latino youth at high school and college campuses to advocate for stronger immigrant protections. By conducting non-partisan voter registration drives (Latinos vote the least of any ethnic group), lifting up Latina voices, and other peer-to-peer organizing efforts, Jolt invests in the long-term leadership of young people needed to shift the state and country toward a more inclusive and representative democracy.
Jolt organizes young Latinos in Texas to exercise their right to vote and demand that our government give the Latino community the dignity and respect that we deserve. Almost 40% of Texas’ population is Latino, yet the state legislature promotes discriminatory laws like SB4 and Latinos face disproportionate challenges: They are more likely to live in poverty and lack access to good schools and health care. Jolt Initiative empowers young Latinos to organize and demand equality and justice for our community.
I have committed my life to winning equality for immigrants and communities of color because I come from an immigrant family. I’ve seen first-hand the cost of a broken immigration system that devalues the lives of immigrants, especially immigrants of color. My uncle lost his life crossing the border, my husband is a DREAMer, and I grew up in Ohio where I regularly saw my Mexican mother face discrimination. There is no one or two moments that have led me to do this work; rather it is the experience of growing up in a Latino immigrant family.
At Jolt, we work to empower and organize young Latinos, and in a short period of time we’ve organized hundreds and mobilized thousands. However, we are working in a state with the second-largest population in the country. This makes scaling our work our greatest challenge. To influence policy at the state level, we need to organize our base and voters to scale. And in a place as big as Texas, building an organization to scale takes significant human and capital resources.
I’m inspired by civil rights leader Ella Baker. She believed that ordinary people had the power to transform their conditions. In 1960, she helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and organized mass voter registration and mobilization efforts. In the face of what seemed like insurmountable circumstances, she helped people unlock the power within them to strengthen their communities and shape their future.
Maggie Juarez is a vibrant young woman and a first-generation Texan. Although Maggie had never been politically active, she was so outraged and saddened by immigration raids in Austin that she walked out of school in February to protest. That day, Maggie met me and became involved with Jolt. A few months later, fighting for better conditions, she was one of the lead organizers of Quinceanera at the Capitol, a performance action to protest the discriminatory law SB4 and Jolt’s most notable action to date.
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