Latino Immigrants Build America

By Sara Rodríguez

In the wake of the March 26th tragic collapse in Baltimore of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that took the lives of six Latino immigrants, we must recognize, support, and encourage the invaluable contributions of Latino immigrants in America. This unfortunate incident serves as a stark reminder of the vital role Latinos play in building our country, quite literally, by constructing infrastructure and bridges that connect communities. But their contributions extend far beyond the physical labor—they contribute to the fabric of our society, enriching our communities, economy, and culture.

Latino immigrants often undertake the arduous and often perilous work that others are unwilling to do. The young immigrant men filling the potholes late at night on the bridge were Jose López, Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, Miguel Luna, Maynor Yasir Suazo Sandoval, and Wenselao Contreras Ortiz.

Like these men, immigrants across America toil tirelessly in demanding jobs, often in adverse conditions, to ensure the smooth functioning of our infrastructure. The Francis Scott Key Bridge, like countless other structures across the nation, stands as a testament to their hard work and dedication. However, their efforts often go unnoticed until tragedy strikes, highlighting the inherent risks they face daily to keep our society functioning.

Beyond their role in construction, Latino immigrants are integral to various sectors of our economy. They build homes, businesses, and communities, contributing to economic growth and vitality.Their entrepreneurial spirit drives innovation and job creation, spurring economic development in neighborhoods and cities across America.Immigrants started new businesses last year at more than double the rate of U.S.-born citizens, according to a recent analysis. Latino-owned businesses of all sizes contribute $800 billion to the U.S. economy each year, according to the latest Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship report. When Latinos prosper, the entire nation reaps the benefits through increased economic activity, job opportunities, and cultural enrichment.

The contributions of Latino immigrants extend to the next generation. Immigrant children grow up to become professionals in diverse fields, including banking, medicine, law, and more. They embody the American Dream, striving for success and making significant contributions to their respective fields. By supporting and empowering Latino immigrants, we invest in the future of our country, ensuring a vibrant and diverse workforce that drives innovation and progress.

Despite the contributions of these hard-working human immigrants, the recent narrative about Latinos is harmful. Scapegoating Latino immigrants not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes but also undermines the foundation of our nation. Immigrants have always been an integral part of America's story, enriching our society with their diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Demonizing them not only ignores their contributions but also exacerbates divisions within our society.

Instead of scapegoating, we must recognize and celebrate the resilience, perseverance, and contributions of Latino immigrants. We must advocate for policies that uphold their rights, provide pathways to citizenship, and foster wealth creation for Latinos who want to grow the American dream. For example, organizations like the National Hispanic Construction Alliance (NHCA) are dedicated to fostering advancement and sustained economic empowerment for both the Hispanic community and the broader construction industry. By embracing and empowering our immigrant communities, we strengthen the very essence of what it means to be American—a nation built by newcomers, for all of us.

The recent bridge collapse serves as a somber reminder of the sacrifices made by Latino immigrants in building and sustaining our nation. Their labor, resilience, and contributions are integral to America's past, present, and future. It is incumbent upon us to recognize, support, and encourage their efforts, ensuring a brighter and more prosperous future for all Americans. When Latinos prosper, America prospers. It's time we acknowledge and embrace the invaluable role they play in building bridges, communities, and the American Dream.

Sara Rodriguez, Chairperson, Hispanic Wealth Project