March 6, 2011 | Las Vegas Review Journal | Original Article

Nevada Views: Hispanic clout -- and it will continue to grow in Nevada, Clark County

After reading the article, "The Face of Nevada," in Friday's Review-Journal, I smiled as I thought back to September 1984 and the publication of my book "A Profile of Hispanics in Nevada: An Agenda for Action," in which I predicted that by 1990 the Hispanic population in Nevada would reach 125,000.

As it turned out, I missed my prediction by 581 people because the census count came in at 124,419, an increase from 1980 of 130.9 percent.

In 1997, I wrote an update to my 1984 book, and noted that, "In considering the census data which documented that the Hispanic population had the lowest median age in the state of Nevada at 25.6 years, and the highest fertility rate, it is easy to see why the Hispanic population in Nevada will continue to grow rapidly in future years. In fact, current estimates show that Nevada's Hispanic population will continue to grow steadily during the next 30 years, despite the fact that overall state growth is expected to slow down dramatically in the early years of the next century. Estimates place the Hispanic population to be somewhere near 583,000 persons in the year 2025. This will amount to approximately 25 percent of the estimated population in the state of Nevada."

Impressively, by 2010, 15 years ahead of the 2000 year estimates, the Hispanic population in Clark County alone had grown to more than 500,000 and following the 2010 census, today constitutes 29 percent of Clark County's population. Statewide, the situation is much the same and the Hispanic population now comprises 27 percent of Nevada's population, up from 20 percent in 2000.

Today, Nevada is only beginning to see the economic and political power of Hispanics. On Nov. 2, for example, Latino voters in Nevada demonstrated their increasing political clout by helping to elect and re-elect eight Latinos to the Legislature, including two Nevada state senators. Latino voters were also widely credited for being responsible for Harry Reid's victory over Sharon Angle and helping to re-elect Catherine Cortez Masto as attorney general.

The future for Hispanics looks even brighter. In Clark County, for example, there are now 101,427 registered voters and given the young age of the Hispanic population, several thousand Hispanics are turning 18 years of age each month and thus are eligible to become voters.

This youth trend is best exemplified at the national level where it is estimated that every month 50,000 Hispanic-Americans turn 18 years old.

Nationally, the Hispanic population of the United States now stands at nearly 50 million, more than double that in 1990 and Hispanic children are a driving factor in that growth, accounting for nearly one in four children under the age of 10 in the United States. To more accurately gauge the growth of the Hispanic population in America, consider the fact that in 1980 it consisted of only 6.4 percent. By 1990, it had grown to 9 percent, and in 2000 it was at 12.5 percent. Today, in 2011 it stands at 15.8 percent. More importantly, most of the Hispanic population is in their prime child-bearing years and almost half of all Hispanic children in the United States are now second-generation residents and 42 percent are third-generation or higher residents.

What this obviously portends is that Hispanic-Americans will continue to dramatically increase their numbers for at least the first half of this century, and will logically increase their political representation and economic influence.

While this news may prove unsettling to some people, particularly political conservatives who in recent years have aggressively advocated the forced deportation of illegal Hispanic immigrants, the fact remains that even if all of the estimated 8 million illegal Hispanic immigrants were deported, the population trends I have described will continue unabated due to the youthfulness of the non-alien Hispanic-American population and the proclivity of Hispanics to have large families.

In addition, given the population trends documented in the 2010 U.S. Census, it would be unwise for this country to continue to seek to remove young undocumented Hispanic workers from this country.

As the Carsey Institute's study revealed, "For declining counties, many in the Great Plains, the growth of young Hispanics may be the only way out of a population spiral. Demographically, they can't recover unless something like this happens. There's no way older white populations can replace themselves."

It must also be noted that without the future Social Security contributions of millions of young Hispanic workers, older Americans, the majority of whom are non-Hispanic, may not have an adequately funded Social Security system and may not have adequate health care programs to care for them in their final years.

Finally, given the realities documented by the 2010 U.S. Census, one can only hope that anti-immigrant advocates will realize the foolishness of their efforts to remove a large and valuable youthful employment resource from this country.

In addition, let's hope that our elected leaders will finally realize the benefits of passing much-needed intelligent, comprehensive immigration reform legislation and that they will move forward to pass the DREAM Act to allow the best and brightest young Hispanic residents to attend college and serve in our military on their path to achieving citizenship.

Doing so can only increase the future economic health and strength of this great country and isn't that what every American wants?