Gov. Spencer Cox held a Latino town hall Monday night — his first such event with the Latino community in his nearly two years as governor.

The event brought together a few hundred people and featured a conversation moderated by Nubia Peña, director of Utah’s Division of Multicultural Affairs. It was translated into Spanish by two interpreters, although Cox also spoke his fair share of Spanglish.

Drawing on pre-submitted questions from the community, Peña discussed several topics with the governor: education, immigration, economy, health care, housing, domestic violence and political priorities. Cox said one of his takeaways from topics raised by the Latino community was that “we all have the same concerns.”

The governor attended seven other town halls earlier on Monday, but said the Latino town hall was the largest.

“We’ve done a lot of outreach to the Latino community. We’ve done more outreach than any other governor in our history,” Cox told reporters. “We’ve done virtual town halls before, (but) we haven’t done any in person. I’ve done commercials in Spanish. We’re constantly reaching out. I do entrevistas en español…but we wanted to do something bigger.”

He added that he hopes to hold Latin American town halls at least once a year. Cox touched on everything from Latinos building more businesses per capita than any other Utah demographic over the past 10 years, to having more bilingual students.

Perhaps Cox’s most widely applauded comments were his posts on immigration, including remarks specifically directed at those who were brought to the United States illegally as children, commonly referred to as “Dreamers.”

“To our Dreamers, this is your country…this is your home. We want you to feel safe and welcome here,” Cox said to loud applause. He continued, “Utah is a special place. We care about those who are hurting and we are a welcoming community. Whether these asylum seekers or refugees are from Afghanistan, Ukraine or Venezuela, we are there. to help them.”

Cox said his administration is working on a number of initiatives that will benefit the Latino community, which represents approximately 15% Utah:

  • Translate the Driver’s Privilege Test (available for undocumented individuals) and ballots into Spanish, and allow a Driver’s Privilege Card to be used as state ID
  • Make it easier for immigrants to transfer credentials to continue working in Utah
  • Create a language access plan that would make government communication available in multiple languages
  • Reduce health care costs and make health care accessible to all
  • Increase high density housing
  • Allocate more resources to students at risk
  • Standardize the application process for in-state tuition
  • Partner with lawmakers to improve domestic violence reporting, data collection, prevention and assistance
  • Collaborate with other governors to push for immigration reform that includes securing the border and work with the State Department and others to be able to welcome asylum seekers from Venezuela and other countries. ‘other countries.

“I know it will be heavy lifting,” Peña said. “But again, what we constantly see is your heart working for real solutions.”

Representative Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, expressed concern about how these initiatives will play out in the Legislative Assembly.

“I know his heart is in the right place; I can’t say that with everyone,” she said. “So even if he shared all of these ideas, I have great concerns about what the legislature is going to look like this next session and will the legislature be supportive of some of the things that we’ve talked about here?”

Romero added that she appreciates the governor reaching out to the Latino community ahead of town hall. She also noted that, unlike a similar event hosted by Cox as lieutenant governor, Monday’s town hall was not endorsed by any particular political party. She also emphasized the need for a non-monolithic approach to reaching Latinos in Utah.

“The Latina/Latino/Latinx community is diverse,” she said. “A lot of them are Brazilians; they don’t speak Spanish. A lot of them are 17th or 18th generation like me and Spanish is not our first language. So when we reach out to Latinos and talk to Latinos, we have to remember that we can’t send the same message (to everyone).”

One of the multiple community organizations involved in organizing the event was Alianza Venezolana from Utah. Alliance director Jesler Molina said the Cox administration has done a good job of reaching out and involving the Latino community.

“We understand that the governor is a busy person and cannot be with us all the time, but these key advisers that he has in these key positions, again, have been really helpful,” he said. . “We love it. Hopefully it’s not the last and there will be a second or third. And we’re looking forward to it.”

Salt Lake City Councilwoman Ana Valdemoros said the town hall was a good start.

“Latinos are a large majority-minority in the state, so it’s important that our governor speaks to us and also tells us his frustrations and his plans and how to uplift the community,” she said.