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Bush Not Doing Enough For Hispanics, Reyes Charges

BY Sergio Bustos

March 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002
EL PASO TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON -- Just before President Bush's visit to El Paso, a group of Hispanic lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes of El Paso, berated Bush for allegedly doing too little to help the nation's 35 million Hispanics.

"Bush is good at talking about issues that affect the Latino community, but fails to follow through with the resources needed to tackle these issues," said Democrat Reyes. He represents a congressional district where about eight in 10 residents are Hispanic.

Bush administration officials have rejected such charges, arguing that the president's education initiatives, the appointment of several Hispanics to Cabinet posts and his pro-immigration policies benefit millions of U.S. Hispanics.

Reyes and several other Hispanic lawmakers including Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., were especially critical of the president's proposed 2003 budget, which won House approval on Wednesday.

The $2.1 trillion proposed budget includes domestic spending cuts to help offset the costs of the war on terrorism. Reyes voted against the budget, but Rep. Henry Bonilla, a Republican from San Antonio whose district includes part of El Paso, voted for it. Bonilla praised the president for "really looking after our nation."

Alejandro Burgos, El Paso County Republican Party chairman, said the thousands of Hispanics who turned out to cheer on Bush in El Paso on Thursday disagree with Reyes' criticism of Bush.

"You can tear apart any budget to find things you don't agree with, but it is Mr. Reyes' duty to find ways to help El Paso. He should stop his partisan complaining and spend that time accomplishing something for El Paso and the Hispanics that live here."

Reyes said he declined an offer to accompany Bush to El Paso because he had previously committed to the U.S.-Mexico Border Conference in the nation's capital. In his letter to the president explaining why he couldn't make the trip, Reyes ripped the president for supporting budget cuts that would hurt El Paso.

He cited elimination of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses local governments for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who commit crimes and provided El Paso with $1.1 million last year; elimination of 28 Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs, a move that will cost the El Paso Independent School District 11 percent of its overall budget, according to Reyes; funding cuts for the Army Corps of Engineers that Reyes said will jeopardize two proposed flood-control dam projects planned in the Sparks Arroyo colonia; and budget cuts for Round II Urban Empowerment Zones.

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