Ten years later, she’ll be marching to the Texas state Capitol — to be sworn in as one of the new state legislators in January.
Newly elected as a state House representative from District 107, the 35-year-old Dallas-born lawyer says she feels a strong obligation to help others
“I really do feel I can be another voice to stand up for those families that don’t have a voice,” she said. “I’m an advocate. This is why I ran, to stand up for our community.”
That strong social conscience was born 20 years ago when she commuted from her home in the barrio of Pleasant Grove to Ursuline Academy in affluent North Dallas.
The economic disparity was stark.
“I saw the wealth gap in our city, and I knew that education was the key to help people get out of poverty,” she said.
Five years ago, when the state Legislature cut $5.4 billion from the public education budget, she watched teachers start working two jobs to make ends meet. Most of the funds were restored two years later, but student populations had grown, and many school programs were never restored.
Today, state leaders are asking for community colleges and state universities to cut back again. And she finds that unacceptable. It was one of the reasons she decided to run.
“We need to be investing in education and making college more affordable, not the reverse,” she said.
Neave is just one example of how increasing numbers of Hispanics are running for public office with the goal of helping their communities in times of stress. Many of them, like Neave, are part of the generation that first felt the negative anti-immigrant attacks during the Bush administration.
They became energized and politicized in order to make a difference.
In all likelihood, we are seeing political engagement by another generation that is distressed with Donald Trump’s victory in Tuesday’s presidential election.
“Trump is going to keep that energy alive,” said Andy Hernández, a Latino political analyst.
He believes Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric motivated Latino voters to turn out in historic numbers.
They may be one reason, along with women, why Trump won Texas by only 9 points, as opposed to the double-digit wins Republicans have enjoyed in past elections.
A Latino Decisions national poll, in which respondents were randomly selected in each state, shows that Latinos backed Hillary Clinton over Trump, 79-18. The polling group also examined official vote totals in heavily Latino precincts, which confirmed its survey data. For example, in Starr County in South Texas, Clinton won 79-19 over Trump.
In Florida, higher numbers of Latinos turned out at the polls. But so did white voters, thereby negating any advantage Clinton would have had with a record turnout of Latinos.
Cal Jillson, political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said that Latinos played a key role in southwestern states, and even all the way to Georgia.
“The margins of victory that Republicans normally enjoy were dampened by Latino voters,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s something that Dems can depend upon. What we’re going to see in 2018 will be sobering for Democrats.”
Even so, he can see state House districts in Dallas County slowly turning purple.
Hernández can also see it. And Neave is a good example of things to come, despite a Trump win.
“Not only do Latinos believe in the American Dream, they will keep fighting for it,” he said. “This is a setback. But we’re not surrendering.”