Latino Leaders React to President's Focus on DREAM Act, Immigration Reform and Education
Coalition also supports call to spur innovation, protect Social Security, and defend health care gains
Washington, DC - on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, the President laid out his plans for strengthening the US economy by emphasizing job creation, educational achievement and clean energy. We believe that Latinos play a critically important role in moving the country forward and strengthening our future. One major aspect of the speech that resonated with the Latino community was the President's emphasis on recognizing the contributions and potential of undocumented students who continue to shape a powerful, innovative and prosperous America. President Obama's challenge to Congress to pass immigration reform legislation this year with a bipartisan approach was equally welcomed by our community.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) a coalition of the 30 leading Hispanic organizations in the United States, were encouraged that the President forcefully addressed the need to pass the DREAM Act and give undocumented workers the chance to come out of the shadows. The Federal government must address immigration reform this session to preempt a slew of punitive yet ineffective state laws that have been introduced across the country.
The President stressed reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and making the reforms started with No Child Left Behind more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids. We believe that it is absolutely critical that Congress reauthorize this important legislation this year and provide significant additional resources to lower the dropout rate and support high expectations for Latino, migrant and English language learner students.
We were also heartened that the President stood firm on preserving the important gains of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Latinos in particular will benefit from the Act's increased preventative care and expanded access to the public health system, as nine million Latinos will be eligible to receive health coverage and exercise greater control over their own health care.
We support the President's call to strengthen Social Security without cutting benefits for retirees. However, while we recognize the need to balance the budget and reduce deficits, we strongly oppose reducing the safety net for those Americans most in need during this time of recession. We urge Democrats and Republicans alike to approach the budget process in a compassionate and fair-minded manner as we seek to protect low income and middle-class Americans that have been severely affected by foreclosures, unemployment and losses to their life savings.
Finally, we note that much of the President's speech was forward looking. With his call to promote innovation, regain our lead in education, develop clean-energy and high-speed rail and extend broadband internet to 98% of Americans, the President seeks to "win the future." What he didn't mention is that with the tremendous demographic changes in our population, the only way the United States can win the future is if we address the needs of Latinos and better incorporate the contributions of Latinos-this country's fastest growing population group. Numbering over 52 million, the Latino population represents 17% of our country today but will grow to 30% of the U.S. population by mid-century. To keep America's leading nation status, Congress and the President must address the high Latino dropout rate, lack of access to technology and need for increased job training and economic opportunity. Failure to address the unique needs of the country's largest minority will make the President's call "to win the future" an unachievable vision.
Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, President of the Hispanic Federation is the Chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) a coalition of national Hispanic organizations that work to establish policy priorities that address, and raise public awareness of the major issues affecting the Latino community and the nation as a whole.