Why this Corpus Christi native’s appointment to this foundation matters

April 23, 2020

Corpus Christi Caller Times

By Tom Whitehurst Jr.

Corpus Christi native Sarah Saldaña has joined the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation. Now that the surface has been scratched, let’s look at the significance of Saldaña and this foundation.

Saldaña is a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, and was President Barack Obama’s director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Her sister, Maricela, is a former Nueces County state district judge. She is one of three new members of the foundation board.

That’s significant because they are the first three Democrats on what had been an entirely Republican board — and because they’re significant people. We already told you Saldaña’s impressive resume. The other two are former state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, the real hero of the famous Wendy Davis filibuster if you know that story, and Regina Montoya, a nationally prominent lawyer and political operative.

So, now that you know these three Hispanic Democrats are a big deal, what’s the big deal about the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation?

The first thing to know about the foundation is that its aim is to bust through assumptions and stereotypes about Hispanics and to use actual fact-based research to better understand them.

Pay attention to this paragraph from the foundation’s description of itself:

“While the Foundation is keenly aware that no person of Hispanic heritage in Texas can be singularly categorized, it also understands that there are certain defining characteristics of this community that are unifying and identifiable and that can be studied, categorized, and catalogued.”

The key phrase for non-Hispanics and Hispanics alike is “no person of Hispanic heritage in Texas can be singularly categorized.” It’s important because so many people try to do it to Hispanics anyway — including some Hispanics.

Hollywood and government at every level tries to do it.

This foundation appears to have real potential to grasp the diversity of interests among Texas’ growing Hispanic population, in no small part because it is partnered with Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The Rice connection means the research part is for real.

“There is nothing like information,” Saldaña told The Dallas Morning News. “We need to know as much as we can about where Texas is heading and where the needs of Hispanics are.”

Adding the three Democrats to the board solves a diversity and perception problem that had been pointed out by Hispanic advocacy groups. Hispanic Americans and the Democratic Party have a long, strong history together and not having any Democrats on the board was a huge omission.

While all three new board members are strong partisans, they profess much enthusiasm for working with the Republicans on the board. Don’t dismiss it as happy talk. Van De Putte, sister in arms to Wendy Davis, is a business partner in San Antonio to Republican board member Hope Andrade. 

“I’m a die-hard Democrat and my business partner is a die-hard Republican. And yet we know that for us to fix things as a state, the well-being of Latino families has got to be at the forefront,” Van de Putte told The Dallas Morning News. “For people to make decisions so that people have the opportunity to succeed, it’s important to have that type of data to know how we’re thinking.”