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Dodd Urges La Raza To Push For Election, Education & Health Care Reforms, Republicans Failing On Latino Scorecard

Dodd Urges LaRaza To Push For Election, Education & Health Care Reforms

By Madeline Baró Diaz

July 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved.

MIAMI BEACH · Sen. Christopher Dodd urged Latino leaders Sunday to push for election, education and health care reforms and expressed support for the work they are already doing across the nation.

"It is the work you do in communities across this country ... that makes a difference in the lives of people," Dodd told a breakfast crowd at the National Council of La Raza annual conference.

The breakfast was in honor of La Raza's affiliates, about 300 organizations in 40 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., that provide services in their communities. Hosting the event were actors Tony Plana, of Showtime's Resurrection Blvd., and Eva Longoria of The Young and the Restless.

La Raza calls itself the largest national Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States and has been in the national spotlight on issues such as the presence of Hispanics on network television and through its nationally broadcast ALMA Awards, which honor Latinos in television, film and music. Founded in 1968 in Arizona, La Raza has traditionally been known for efforts to empower the Mexican-American community but has been trying to incorporate Hispanics of other backgrounds into the organization.

Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who says he is probably the only U.S. senator who speaks fluent Spanish, made his remarks in English with a smattering of Spanish. He said election reforms being worked out in Congress could address problems that arose during the 2000 presidential election in which registered voters were turned away, were not provided adequate language assistance or had ballots discarded because of problems with voting machine technology.

"My hope would be that before this Congress is over that we will reform the election process in this country," he said. "You ought to have the right to vote and your vote ought to count in this country."

Dodd recited statistics that one out of three Hispanic high school students drops out before graduation and that less than half the Hispanics who graduate from high school go on to college. Among the changes Dodd proposed is the hiring of more bilingual teachers.

"To be perfectly blunt, Hispanic children are not failing American schools," Dodd said. "American schools are failing Hispanic children."

Dodd also expressed hope that immigration crackdowns since Sept. 11 would not mean the closing down of U.S. borders or an end to efforts to legalize undocumented workers.

Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for La Raza's office of research, advocacy and legislation, said La Raza is "playing a lot of defense" on immigration issues that have cropped up since the terrorist attacks. They have been focusing efforts on driver's license restrictions and attempts by the federal government to get local law enforcement agencies involved in immigration enforcement. They are also participating in a postcard campaign urging legislators to give undocumented workers legal status.

"We're doing everything we can to address these issues," she said.

Legislators will probably take up the legalization issue again, Dodd said, although he does not think it will happen soon. The efforts of legislators to bring about reforms in the issues that affect Latinos are bolstered by the work of the organizations such as La Raza's affiliates, he said.

"I want them to know there are people like me [in Congress] that give a damn about what they're doing," he said.

Republicans Failing On Latino Scorecard

By Judy Holland

August 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Hearst Newspapers. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON - A national coalition of Hispanic leaders and civil rights groups Wednesday released its annual scorecard of House and Senate lawmakers that showed most Democrats doing well and most Republicans faring poorly when their votes were compared with the group's legislative agenda.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda represents 35 national Latino groups.

Larry Gonzalez, a director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said generally low scores for Republicans and higher ones for Democrats were "indicative of a highly partisan Congress and of a need for the continued education of various members of Congress."

The coalition rated 11 House and 11 Senate votes.

For example, in the House, the coalition gave positive scores for votes:

• For a measure that would have allowed Hispanics whose names were not on registration lists at polls to fill out provisional ballots.

•  Against an education bill giving school districts more flexibility in spending federal dollars. The coalition said it would steer dollars away from programs for at-risk students.

In the Senate, positive scores were given for votes:

•  For the patients' bill of rights.

• Against the nomination of John Ashcroft to be attorney general.

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