As the son of migrant farm workers from northern Mexico, Daniel Garza knows firsthand what the American dream can do for a person. This is especially true in his own life — though Garza dropped out of high school, he was later able to obtain his GED and work his way into the world of politics. He eventually came to work in the White House during the presidency George W. Bush, advocating for the Latino community and the principles of economic freedom. Today he works as the Executive Director of the LIBRE Initiative, a non-profit organization that works to advance the ideals of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and the hard work ethic to Latinos across the country.
As a part of Hispanic Heritage month, Regent recently invited Garza to speak at Wednesday Chapel to discuss these principles with the faculty and staff. Before he went on stage, The Daily Runner had a chance to sit down with him and discuss the role of government, issues facing the Latino community in America, and how students can play a part in his mission.
In what ways has the American dream as we know it changed over the years? And what effect has this had on our country’s immigrants?
Mostly that the role of government has changed. The role of government used to be for a strong national defense, simple rules that kept one from defrauding or hurting somebody else, and then of course providing for public safety and security, the coining of money and these kinds of things that were enumerated in the Constitution. It’s now beginning to intervene in our personal lives and our personal decisions—how we raise our children, how we praise our God, and how we commerce and trade. It’s to the point where the focus is now on—for a lot of folks, especially in the Latino community—government as the cure to every social ill, as government to take care of our economic needs, our health needs, and our educational needs.
In every facet of our lives, government’s role has begun to expand to a point of dependency. And we feel that it’s not sustainable for a society. In the long run it will curtail our freedoms. It will also hinder our ability to grow economically, to become a strong nation for our defense, where the printing of money is devaluing the dollar. But it also puts us in a perilous position, globally. So it has almost entirely to do with the overexpansion of government and the role that it plays in our personal lives.
Obviously, America has been a magnet for immigrants from inception because you are free to prosper and commerce and trade—where hard work and innovation are rewarded. That was the magnet for the rest of the world. Waves and waves of poor immigrants came to America, and those same waves became prosperous. They improved the lives of their children and fulfilled more dreams and aspirations than any country on the face of the earth. What’s happened now is that, as immigrants have continued to flood into America, our ability to generate opportunities has diminished, because government’s role has expanded. It has, in a sense, hindered the ability of the private sector to innovate, to generate new wealth, to expand opportunities for those immigrants that are coming in. What we also have is over eleven million folks who are undocumented, who we make it very difficult for them to assimilate and to freely take advantage of the opportunities that do exist and to be rewarded for their hard work.
So we’re keeping an undocumented class in the shadows, and then for the new immigrants that are coming in documented, we’ve limited the opportunities for them to be a part of those who generate new wealth in America. As government has expanded, as its reach has expanded, it’s hindered the private sector. And so it’s had a massive impact on a wide scale on our ability to absorb new immigrants and their ability to create new wealth.
Are there any signs that things are improving for the Hispanic community here in America?
No. The current trend we are on is not a favorable trend, when it comes to economic freedom. In fact, I think in the last ten years we’ve fallen from a fourth or fifth place position—now I believe we’re in the fifteenth position as the most economically free nation in the world. And our ability to generate wealth and prosperity and growth has also diminished because of that. As the size of government grows proportionately, then also the power of the individual diminishes. And that’s been critical.
The Latino community is interdependent with the rest of the American economy. You need a thriving Latino community to have a thriving American economy. And vice versa—you need a thriving American economy to have a thriving Latino community. In the end, e pluribus unum—out of many, one. We are one, right? But when educational opportunities are hard to come by for Latinos, when the private sector is not generating new economic opportunities, when there is less innovation, less startups in business—we’ve been hurt by that. And then there are new regulations like Obamacare that are not creating more part-timers and reducing staffs to under 49 so that it doesn’t trigger the obligation of having to provide healthcare to everybody, and having folks under 39 hours to not qualify as full time staff. We are twice the rate of all other Americans who are working part-time as opposed to full-time. Our unemployment rate is three times higher than the rest of America. And Obamacare for example has hurt us deeply because we are a very young demographic. We are a median range of 29 years of age, while the rest of America is 37 years of age. We’re almost ten years, almost a dozen years younger.
So what I mean to say by that is that Obamacare works in a way that the younger and healthier are punished more, or have to pay a higher cost of insurance—more of the burden to sustain those who are not as healthy and older. So we’ve been hurt the most because of Obamacare. In the long run, our economic opportunities for jobs, for growth, for wellbeing have actually diminished over the last ten or twelve years.
How does faith tie into your mission with the LIBRE Initiative?
As an individual, first of all, I want to know that everything I do brings honor and glory to God. And so I think I bring that to my position as the Executive Director of the LIBRE Initiative. What we are doing is aligned with Biblical principles—that you reward hard work, that you reward personal responsibility. You reward folks that are self-reliant, folks who honor their faith and who honor their families, who work to sustain the family unit as well. We know there is empirical evidence that, if you make these decisions, that it is better for society. And we should reward that and encourage that kind of behavior.
If we move away from that model, from not a biblical model but a more secular sense, we are going to suffer in the long term—even in the short term—as a society. So our faith plays a huge role in the kind of issues that we are advancing. We look to the Bible for a lot of the principles that we know are going to make society more successful—a more peaceful and more prosperous society. So a huge component of what we do is our faith outreach, to engage the Christian community to help us advance the principles that we strongly believe in. The Christian world has as their anchor in core principles and core values. And we want to make sure that those are expressed in the public forum, that people who advocate for public policy in the halls of government are advocating principles that are aligned with biblical principles, because we feel that is what’s best for society.
I do not accept the notion that you check in your principles of faith at the door when you walk into a marble building in Washington, DC. I reject that outright. Also, there’s this notion that you’re coming to impose your values or impose your religion on government is a false notion as well. Why should the principles espoused by Gloria Steinem or Ralph Nader have more supremacy over those espoused by Jesus Christ in the Bible? They should not. And everybody has to make their case on the merits of policy, on the merits of how this is better for society and better for America. I call on Christians to rise up, and to advance those values and those principles that they know are better for society. And we want to be a platform for that – for Latino Christians to advance their principles and their values.
What role can students play in affecting change in the issues you are fighting for?
Well there is no question that their voice matters. The thing about America is that the individual matters. We are a society, but there has always been a streak of rugged individualism about America—where one’s person’s dreams can make a difference, whether that’s a Steve Jobs or a Pat Robertson or a Daniel Garza. I was a kid from the sticks, a child of farm workers who was raised with Christian principles, a high school dropout who got a second chance because I got my GED, went off to college and worked for George W. Bush at the White House, impacting the United States by helping to drive policy that makes a national difference. That’s a reflection of America, how one individual can make a difference.
So as students, as individuals who have dreams and aspirations, and who also have core principles and values that are going to make our society better, you need to rise up as an individual to join the group that you’re a part of. To help advance those and to help preserve those policies and those values that have made America the strongest and most prosperous nation in the world. If we are to quiet those voices, we will suffer in the long run because of it. If we don’t advocate for those principles, somebody is advocating for the principles that are directly in conflict with those principles. This is a republic. This is a democracy. You can have a voice, but you need to rise up and you need to put aside your fears or whatever reluctance one may have.
The fact is this: Moses had to advocate in the halls of government on behalf of his people. Esther had to rise up and advocate in the halls of government on behalf of her people. Daniel, Joseph, David who was the king of Israel, Christians in the Bible and Christians throughout history—Martin Luther King Jr., the Salvation Army, the underground railroad that was run by Christians – have always been engaged in the fight for people, in the fight for their principles and their values. And students, especially at Regent University, have to rise up and join that long legacy of civic involvement. Because it’s not only that we be good Christians, but that we be good citizens as well.