Juan Carlos Polanco, the Hispanic Voice of New York Republicans

Juan Carlos Polanco (Photo via Impacto Latino)

Political analyst Dr. Juan Carlos Polanco has established himself as a respected Hispanic voice, often offering the Republican Party perspective on political TV shows, but always with self-criticism and honoring his roots.

(…) He is a practicing attorney, teacher of social studies at the Harry S. Truman High School and CUNY, and father of two. (…) Born in Upper Manhattan in a Dominican family, he was raised in the Fordham section of The Bronx.

Dr. Polanco has served as commissioner at the City’s Board of Elections. In 2017 he was the Republican candidate for New York City public advocate and came up second with 172,601 votes. (…) He lives in Allerton, The Bronx.

What should Latinos know about the Republican Party?

First of all, it’s a party that has changed a lot in recent years. I don’t understand why Latinos think that the party is against them when history tells that it was the first party that fought against racism and slavery and for civil rights and liberties, especially for African Americans.

The party was founded by President Lincoln, and when my parents came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in the 1970s, seeking the opportunities they couldn’t find in their native country, President Reagan gave us an amazing boost. I remember my parents and me listening to Reagan’s message during the primaries against Bush and in the general election, when he told the country that immigrants are important, that they are part of the fabric of the nation. In 1986 he granted amnesty, [telling immigrants] that if they apologize and offer loyalty to that nation, they would be granted citizenship. That was a great boost for the Latino community, but the GOP has also been a law-and-order party and it must be recognized that it was instrumental in the New York anti-crime laws of the 1980s and 90s.

When did Juan Carlos Polanco decide to become a Republican?

Come to think about it: I was raised in The Bronx at a time where there were thousands of drug-related deaths every year and the Republican Party said that this situation had to change. Then Mayor Giuliani came along and Bloomberg continued that legacy. Now we have fewer than 300 deaths per year.

Twenty years ago I switched from Democrat to Republican in spite of the fact that there is a monopoly, because the Democrats in some districts are organized in order to favor the Democratic Party. It is important to talk about such issues as finances, education, and food assistance. Many of our Latinos are poor when they arrive, and the Democrats talk about helping them and that’s how they get their support.

I understand that the GOP has changed its discourse in the past couple of years. It used to promote a compassionate conservatism, but now President Trump is insulting immigrants, disrespecting them, and I personally feel affected by this rhetoric, and so there is less support from immigrants.

We must reflect as a party and, as a Latino, I’ve had serious problems with colleagues who are against immigrants. Many of us reject undocumented immigration, but I don’t support the way the community is being talked to.

(…)What must be done so Latinos become more politically active and effective?

It is important that they feel part of this country. We have many immigrants with citizen children but they don’t exercise their vote because they are focused on the politics of their own countries.

In my parents’ community, a place like the United Palace gets packed with Dominicans going to listen to candidates talking about politics back home, but they don’t show up when there are elections here.

Latinos must feel American, participate in the electoral process, and give value to the vote. You can’t only vote for one party. If we keep going like this, our vote will never be valued as we deserve. If Republicans think that Latinos will never vote for them and Democrats believe that they have the Latino vote locked, the Latino vote will never be valued.

We need to learn from the Cubans in Florida, where their vote is being recognized because they vote Republican and Democrat. They vote for Marco Rubio and for a Democratic congresswoman, and that’s why politicians do everything they can to earn their vote. We must valorize our vote.

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