Growing up, Daniel Garza and his three siblings would often miss school to pick crops in the fields alongside their parents, who came to live in the United States from Mexico decades ago and had nothing more than a fourth-grade education.
“Times were tough for them in Mexico,” Garza told VOXXI of his parents. “They didn’t have the opportunities that they had here in the U.S. for prosperity and for making money.”
At first, things weren’t all that better for the family in the U.S. They moved constantly to follow the crop seasons in Washington, California and Nebraska. The family was also very poor.
At one time, their home was the size of a tool shed with no running water. Garza and his siblings would have to warm up buckets of water on the stove so that when their parents returned from working out in the fields, they would be able to bathe with small cups of warm water.
Despite their needs, Garza’s parents refused to apply for welfare.
“They were very proud of their self-reliance and independence,” Garza said of his parents. “They had come to America with the mindset that they were going to work hard and that they were going to save. And that’s exactly what they did.”
Eventually, his parents bought a motel using the money they made by buying and selling small properties. They continued to buy and sell properties until they retired with enough money to live comfortably.
Following in his parent’s footsteps, Garza went on to be successful as well. He went from being a police officer to being a city council member and eventually a White House aide under President George W. Bush.
Garza is now head of the LIBRE Initiative, which is considered one of the most powerful Latino conservative groups in the nation.
How the LIBRE Initiative is reaching out to Latinos
Garza launched the LIBRE Initiative in 2011 with the goal of advocating for economic freedom and providing the market-based perspective on a number of issues important to Latinos.
“We feel that the left has dominated the discussion and the conversation within the Hispanic community for far too long, and there has been an absence of the conservative market-based position,” he told VOXXI. “Now that we can engage at the national level and in every corner of the country, we’re totally going to take that opportunity.”
The LIBRE Initiative is based in Texas and has a total of nine offices in states with large Latino populations, including Florida, California and Arizona.
Garza said his group wants to not only serve as a conservative voice for Latinos but also equip the Latino community with “empowerment tools” that can help them be prosperous. Using the money it raises from donors — among them billionaires Charles and David Koch — the group provides Latinos with a number of social services to help them succeed.
For example, the group organizes free health clinics and offers English classes year-round. Last year, it provided free tax preparation services as well as legal advice related to immigration and home foreclosures. This year, it will begin to offer free GED courses online.
“We feel those things can be a step-up for people,” Garza told VOXXI of the services it offers Latinos.
Besides providing services to Latinos, the LIBRE Initiative has launched several campaigns like the “Share the Dream” campaign. It is composed of four videos featuring Garza and three other Latinos whose parents are also immigrants.
Garza said the “Share the Dream” campaign focuses on the common thread that often leads Latinos to achieve the American Dream. He added that the campaign aims to highlight some of the policies that have proven to help Latinos become successful in the U.S. and the ones that haven’t.
Another campaign by the LIBRE Initiative focuses on highlighting the problems that the group says Latinos face with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The campaign dubbed “The Accountability Project” also goes after members of Congress who support the health care law.
Last week, the campaign targeted Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) in a television ad where a Latina doctor from Florida cites some of the concerns she has about the Affordable Care Act.
“People’s plans are getting canceled. Their premiums are going up, but politicians like Congressman Joe Garcia support it,” Dr. Grazie Christie says in the ad. “All we’ve seen are broken promises, so congressman, people demand to know: Why do you support this law?”
GOP turns to Garza for advice on Latino outreach
The LIBRE Initiative has become so successful that some Republicans are now turning to Garza for advice on how to reach out to Latino voters. He has been invited to speak at numerous Republican events, including last year’s CPAC conference, the largest annual gathering of conservatives.
Garza said he advices Republicans to do more than just talk to Latinos.
“In order to get the political victories that you’re seeking, of course, you have to earn the trust and the respect of the community,” he told VOXXI. “And in order to gain their respect and trust, you have to engage with them not three months before an election but year in, year out.”
“You also have to explain your policy positions in order to earn the vote of the community… and I don’t think they’ve done an effective job of that,” Garza added.
He also advises the Republican Party to go into Latino neighborhoods and talk to Latinos about issues — other than immigration reform — that are important to them. Some issues he recommended are the economy, health care and education.
The Republican Party has its own Latino outreach efforts in place. The party began to ramp up those efforts following the 2012 elections when Latino voters overwhelmingly voted for President Barack Obama over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Garza said he predicts the Republican Party will continue to improve its efforts to attract Latino voters, especially ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
“I think you’re going to see the ramping up of the outreach and the engagement with the Hispanic community, which has been a long time in coming,” he said. “I welcome the Republican Party stepping up and doing what they need to do.”