Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto


Victoria is Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a contributor to MSNBC and Telemundo. Her areas of expertise in the domestic policy landscape include immigration, Latinos, women and childcare, and economic equity. more→


Victoria brings an interdisciplinary lens to understanding policy development and its intersection with institutional and political contexts. Underlying her academic work is the applicability of rigorous research to on-the-ground policy realities.

Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto

Recent Media

This piece originally appeared on NBCNews.com

PHILADELPHIA – Hillary Clinton has a couple of things she’ll need to make happen this week for Latinos: get younger and former Bernie Sanders supporters on board and get all ages to accept her pick of Tim Kaine over a Latino as her running mate.

Clinton is in good standing with Hispanics heading into the Democratic National Convention that gets under way Monday. She held a 76 percent to 14 percent lead over Donald Trump in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/ Telemundo poll released last Sunday.

But the party is in turmoil after a leak of thousands of emails, some suggesting party attempts to inflict damage on the Bernie Sanders campaign, could stall attempts to shore up support behind a Clinton-Kaine ticket.

Republicans are hoping to turn out higher numbers of non-Latino or Latino Republican voters to make up for the deficit, so Clinton needs to keep those numbers up. Driving them higher wouldn’t hurt.

When cameras pan the convention floor, Democrats will be able to show higher numbers of Latino delegates than Republicans could.

But the conventioneers are the loyalists. There have been plenty of complaints about low investment in Latino voter turnout and about an over-reliance on Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to turn out Latinos. In 2012, more Latinos eligible to vote stayed home than went to vote.

Kaine will take the floor Wednesday to accept his nomination as the party’s vice presidential nominee. That’ll give him the chance to tell a larger audience about his life and his trajectory, including his legal work fighting housing discrimination and civil rights and his work as governor and senator. In his first appearance on Saturday with Clinton, the two stressed his strong support for immigrant rights and reform and his efforts to secure gun control legislation.

However, Clinton and Kaine will have to tread carefully so as not to rely on Kaine’s Spanish-speaking skills or even his mission work in Honduras as the hook for the Latino vote.

Many in the community had hoped this might be the year to see a Latino on the ticket, so Hispanics will want to see that they aren’t being taken for granted and that Kaine’s work in the community has gone beyond speaking the language.

Clinton also must deal with Latino holdouts who helped Bernie Sanders run a competitive primary campaign against Clinton. Many were new voters and are not ready to fall in line.

Maxzene Bramon, 25, is among them. On Sunday afternoon the young Latina was ignoring the heat as she started to march from City Hall along a downtown street with Bernie Sanders protesters.

“I don’t feel she [Clinton] has it sewn up. She does not have the right amount of pledged delegates,” Bramon said. “Also with the Wikileaks that have come out showing that the DNC rigged it for Hillary Clinton is something Sanders can (use to)… gain leverage to press the Democratic platform more progressively.”

More than 19,000 emails from Democratic National Committee officials were leaked by the website Wikileaks Friday. To Sanders’ supporters, some of the emails confirm their suspicions that the party rigged the primaries against Sanders.

The emails have caused embarrassment to some and led Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to announce she’ll step down at the end of the convention.

Amid that upheaval, conventioneers arrived to Philadelphia to spend a week at events and parties around the cities, searching for political who’s whos and nominating their candidates for president and vice president.

Three Democratic Latinos discussed what they are expecting from the week in interviews with NBC Latino:

When other residents of Murrieta, California tried to stop buses carrying into the town Central American children who had arrived on the border in 2014, Sandy Piña tried to make help them pass.

A businesswoman, she has turned a small hospitality payroll business she and her husband started in their garage with $5,000 into a $70 million enterprise in 14 states, she said.

“I had to work for every single penny,” she said.

Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, her mother was an American citizen. She was 14 when her parents divorced and they moved to the U.S. to live with her grandmother in East Los Angeles. Though she has done well, Piña said she understands struggle. Her mother had been on welfare and she married at 17.

Piña has helped provide a financial support to an LA youth center, opened a home to help families that had lost homes and has supported the children’s hospital, “because I came from there,” she said.

She gets angry when she hears criticism of Obama and suggestions that he hasn’t achieved anything in his two-term presidency.

“The hospitality industry has been at 100 percent occupancy for two years. And when the hospitality is full and you can’t get a room for a whole year, the economy is up,” she said. She said that has to continue and she thinks Clinton will do that.

“Bernie’s voters should stop already. Let’s unite. United we stand. Sí se puede,” she said. “We need to say already, ‘¡Ya, basta!’


This was the first year Victor Zavala, 25, participated in the Iowa caucus and it landed him the chance to serve as a national delegate for Sanders. He had canvassed for then Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, but this is his first convention.

He has a Go Fund Me page set up to help offset his costs in Philadelphia.

Born in Mexico, Zavala immigrated to the U.S. when he was a child and eventually became a U.S. citizen. He said he also is one third Cherokee.

He acknowledges Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary, but he said super delegates have yet to vote and without them Clinton doesn’t have enough pledged delegates to seal the nomination.

He said there are reasons for them to reconsider supporting Clinton, as many of the super delegates do. He’s hoping the Wikileaks email release has an impact and how she’s doing in head-to-head polling against Trump.

“That’s going to be a very tight election. Super delegates need to realize if they choose Hillary she is not going to go strong enough against Trump,” Zavala said. “I hope they change their mind.”


Democratic delegate Lucy Huyke Garner has been waiting a long time for this moment. Lucy is a self-described die-hard Hillary Clinton supporter who was heavily involved in Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

She recalled how hard it was for her to make that shift away from Clinton to Barack Obama.

“It took me about a week before I was able to change out my buttons,” Huyke Garner said.

Born in Colombia, Huyke Garner immigrated to the United States where she earned a doctorate in mental health counseling. She cares about her Latino community, but also sees the more general importance of the American community, she said.

Health care is her top concern. “I want to see the Affordable Care Act improved. Sure, it needs to be fixed, but in no way removed,” she said.

The issue of health care hits close to home for her both as a former mental health therapist and as a resident of Florida. She points out that Florida is one of the states that did not accept the Medicaid expansion. In her volunteer work, she is reminded of the growing need to better the health care system, she said.

Huyke Garner said she believes in a political platform that advocates for social justice, which she sees in Clinton.

“I am inspired by Hillary’s lifelong commitment to social justice … Just go back to her college graduation speech you (find) the beginning there.”

At the same time, Huyke Garner is repelled by what she described as Donald Trump’s focus on narcissism and materialism. “It’s all about getting rich, rich, rich,” she said.

As a fellow baby boomer, Huyke Garner also feels a close tie to Clinton.

“I’m crazy for Hillary … She’s my role model. She’s independent. She’s made her own way,” she said.