Hector Flores, National Immigration Committee Chair for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), was raised by his Mexican-American grandparents in South Texas. He spent summers doing migrant work, traveling north to Indiana to pick cherries then south to West Texas to tend to the cotton crop. When he’d return to school, Flores would be sent to the local “Mexican school,” which he now calls separate and very unequal. “The main highway crossed the town, and the good schools were on one side, and our schools were on the other,” he says. Flores worked his way through college, became a police officer, then worked for the federal Department of Justice. In his current position as LULAC chair, Flores works to help ensure that equality and respect are granted to all immigrants and Hispanic citizens.
We have to make America vibrant and our manufacturing supreme and our economy supreme so we can protect ourselves. And all of that depends on the strength of a diverse economy.
Flores says the idea that immigrants come to the United States to take jobs from Americans is simply not true. “The research shows that immigrants create jobs by profits generated for owners of the businesses and industries they work in—agriculture, manufacturing, construction,” he explains. Were the country to consider mass deportations, “almost every service industry—especially in Texas—would collapse.”
Flores stresses that Hispanics own more than 4 million businesses in the United States. “These are facts. No one can make that up,” he says. “We have to make America vibrant and our manufacturing supreme and our economy supreme so we can protect ourselves. And all of that depends on the strength of a diverse economy.”
Flores wants to see immigration reform that keeps families together and that allows people who don’t have criminal records to work and build a life in America. “Our core objective is always for uniting families and respecting their labor rights regardless of status,” he says. “Let them earn legalization, which means they work to get their citizenship over a period of years—not a lifetime, but in five years or so. They pay taxes, learn English, and become good civic citizens of their communities.”