“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” ~ Proverbs 27:17
As Hispanic Heritage Month wraps up, I hope you took the time to stop and appreciate what the Hispanic culture has contributed to our state and country. Growing up in a Hispanic community is one of the highlights of my life. The warmth of the community, the hard work of its citizens, and the love of family are just a few of the characteristics that my sweet South Texas town impressed upon me. We are a culture that takes great care of relationships and never hesitates to help a friend or family in need.
I have opined in the past about my conservative values coming from the experiences and lessons taught to me by my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. It is not something learned as I got older but a part of whom I have always been. This is the number one reason why I believe in Hispanic outreach and taking the conservative message back to the community I love.
As I reflected on this, I decided that I wanted to highlight a fellow conservative colleague and the work he is doing within the Hispanic community in Texas. Jorge Martinez is the Texas Coalitions Director for The LIBRE Initiative. He lives in the Rio Grande Valley with his beautiful wife and children and works tirelessly to be a voice for our community. I hope you enjoy learning more about my friend Jorge and The LIBRE Initiative in the interview below.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with The LIBRE Initiative?
I grew up in a small town in the central valley of California just outside Fresno, where my parents were immigrant farm workers. They raised my brother, sisters, and me on a minimum wage salary where they never sought government help. My father believed in hard work, and self-reliance. My parents came to the United States so that their children could have a better life and a chance to achieve the American Dream.
I graduated from California State University, Fresno, where I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication. While there, I became founding president of Alpha Gamma Omega, a Christ-centered fraternity. I later earned a Master of Public Administration from California Baptist University.
I found out about LIBRE while I was volunteering and working on a project involving churches for a cousin of mine. During this conference, I heard a gentleman speak about limited government, the rule of law, and a sound money supply - principles that I believe in. I needed to speak to him to share how his story had impacted me. After multiple attempts, I finally met him and spoke to him. It was at that point about 20 minutes into our conversation that he said he was looking for someone like me to join The LIBRE Initiative in helping reach out to the Hispanic Church across America. I joined The LIBRE Initiative in September of 2012, and I have not looked back ever since.
I currently serve as the Texas Coalitions Director for LIBRE where one of my responsibilities is sharing the stories of the countless individuals I get to speak with on a daily basis, to our lawmakers. In 2015, I was appointed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to the Texas Physician Assistant Board to serve as a public board member and serve on the Ethics and Disciplinary Committee. I serve as chairman emeritus of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the City of Mission, TX, and also serve as an Accountability Board Member for New Life Family Church in McAllen, TX.
What is LIBRE’s mission and how do you engage with the community?
The mission of The LIBRE Initiative is to empower Hispanics to reach their full potential. We do this by being the leading Hispanic voice in our communities by promoting freedom minded solutions that benefit all. We create diverse partnerships by partnering with those who provide creative solutions to everyday problems. And we transform lives, and empower communities to act, by driving the policies which break down barriers to opportunity.
As a grassroots organization, our time is best utilized by talking to our community at the door and on the phone. We talk to people about important issues that impact their lives and we help them get connected to their lawmakers to have their voice heard.
Our sister organization The LIBRE Institute, focuses on educating and equipping our community to transform lives and break barriers. We believe that freedom drives progress and that the values of faith, family, education, and hard work are the same values that lead to Texans best version of the American Dream. We do this by partnering with members of the community, local organizations, and businesses.
For example, in El Paso, our community there has been really invested in financial literacy. We partnered with a local school district, a university professor, and use the Dave Ramsey financial literacy coursework to help people get their finances in order. And in some cases, this information helps young adults start their careers knowing to stay as far away as possible from debt and begin their financial journeys in the right direction.
In the Rio Grande Valley, our team has seen a need in having English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and citizenship preparation classes. As a result, we have partnered with members of the community to hold ESL classes. The Mexican Consulate is also helping us with these efforts. Those who have participated have said they take our courses because learning English could help them get a better paying job which in turn helps lift families out of poverty.
The tools our team is providing to our communities is truly empowering Hispanics to achieve the American Dream for themselves, their families, and their communities.
What are the priorities of the Hispanic community you work with and how do they align with LIBRE’s mission and values?
People tend to believe the Hispanics are a monolithic group and that all we care about is immigration. That is completely far from the truth. The reality is that many of us come to this country to work hard, get ahead in life, and provide a better future for our children.
Research shows us that Hispanics also care about healthcare, the economy, immigration, and education. All of these topics have one thing in common, and that is that they all tie back to our economic freedom. The LIBRE Initiative was founded on promoting economic freedom to the Hispanic community. Where we respect the rule of law, have a sound money supply, respect property rights, have free trade, and have a constitutionally limited government.
As LIBRE has evolved over the course of nearly a decade, our mission today as stated above is to empower Hispanics to reach their full potential. The work that we do, the ideas and principles we promote, are priorities for the Hispanic communities. And were making our community aware of the policies that will impact them.
What will your priorities be as we go into the 87th Legislative Session?
Looking forward to next session, there is only one piece of legislation that our lawmakers must pass, and that is the budget. We are working to pass a fiscally responsible Texas budget. One that does not exceed population plus inflation. Many families across the state have had to take a hard look at their own budgets and have made the cuts necessary to survive. Likewise, the Texas Legislature should continue the hard work they’ve previously shown in adopting a spending restraint.
Education in the Hispanic community is seen as a key to getting out of poverty. I myself, am a testament to that. During this COVID-19 era, we have seen and heard from many families their wanting to have the educational opportunities to have their children learn from home. My son just started pre-k 4 and coming from the Rio Grande Valley where cases had been rampant, my wife and I as parents decided to have our son continue learning from home, where he has excelled in distance learning.
Every parent and or legal guardian should have the option to choose what is best for their children. If there are parents that believe it is safe to send their children back to in-person learning, they should have that option. So, we hope to see some expansion to provide more permanent options for all children in Texas. Whether that is online learning, in- person learning, or a hybrid option, it is evident that we need to update our mental model of how we run our educational institutions in the state.
At the start of the pandemic we saw our state shutdown. Essential workers like our healthcare professionals had to figure out how to see their patients while figuring out how to deal with this virus. What we found was that the governor’s efforts to temporarily roll back and allow telemedicine and physicians from out of state to help in state, really helped keep our communities safe. I have talked with many physicians, physician assistants, and from their perspective, they have seen a benefit. And having talked with many individuals on the ground and using telemedicine personally, we have seen the benefits. Because of this, we will be advocating for making telemedicine permanent because this expands access to care.
Lastly, like all Texans, we want to live in safe communities. And some of us, have made our fair share of mistakes. That is why we believe it is important to give people a second chance. Bail Reform is crucial to seeing safe streets and giving people a second chance. What Bail reform in Texas would do is 1) keep dangerous individuals off the street regardless of their ability to post bail and likewise, 2) it would also allow individuals who are not threats to society a chance to go back to work and provide for their families while waiting for their day in court.
A lot of our current efforts are being spent working with a separate organization, The LIBRE Initiative Action. LIBRE Action supports candidates that are committed to working with anyone to advance positive policies that promote the wellbeing and self-sufficiency of the Hispanic community. It was created to support champions on these policies and to build the broad coalitions needed to make our policy priorities for the 87th legislature, a reality.
Final words- what do you want Texans to know about the Hispanic community?
Do not take Hispanics for granted and do not ignore us. Reach out to us, share your ideas, get to know what is important to us, and let’s work together to do good.