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White House Leadership Has Been Good Not Only For Nation, But Also For Hispanics

By Tim Chavez

January 12, 2002
Copyright © 2002 All Rights Reserved.

Few people have done more to champion the plight of Hispanics in Middle Tennessee than Nashville attorney and activist Mario Ramos.

But this week, he did them more harm than good by blaming the Bush administration for failure to get the results he wanted from a two-year investigation of alleged abuse of Hispanic Nashville residents. Federal officials said there was not evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone with a security company violated civil rights laws in abusing Hispanics at Nashville apartment complexes. Ramos, in turn, said he suspects the Justice Department decision was because of the leadership change at the White House.

Ironically, Ramos' criticism of the White House came in the same week that President Bush announced a proposed reversal of policy that denies food stamps to legal immigrants. It was signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton, a Democrat.

Yesterday, the National Council of La Raza, the most prominent Hispanic civil rights group in the nation, praised Bush's action.

''We're extremely pleased the Administration is prepared to use its political clout to ensure that the Congress passes legislation to restore Food Stamp benefits to many legal immigrants. The President's proposal recognizes that the 1996 changes in the law went too far.

''The incidence of hunger and food insecurity in Hispanic households was almost three times that of White non-Hispanic households in 1999, and much of the high prevalence is directly related to cutting legal immigrants' access to this program. Moreover, we know that immigrant communities are among those hardest hit by the current recession. We salute the Administration for acknowledging that the safety net – which their tax dollars help pay for – should be available to these families.''

That doesn't sound like an administration that is calloused to Hispanics' plight or, as Ramos claims, is acting leniently in investigating cases of their abuse. In fact, the president endured sharp criticism from within his own Republican Party when he floated a proposal this past summer to grant temporary legal status to immigrants illegally here. He has since backed off that proposal. And since Sept. 11, some immigration rules have been tightened, a move that even most Hispanic-Americans support for the common good.

In 1996, the GOP led the effort to cut food stamps to legal immigrants. So Bush is now going against his own party's sentiments with this week's announcement. With budgetary times now tight, the president could have delayed his bid to lift the ban. But he chose to do the right thing. And this week's signing of his No Child Left Behind Act will ensure that the education needs of Hispanic children will no longer be hidden by school districts.

With his criticism, Ramos is letting his politics show. He was a delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention. That's fine. But he should not let partisanship send the wrong message to area Hispanics.

Yes, a change in leadership at the White House has made a difference. But for Hispanics, as with the rest of the nation, it has been for the better.

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