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The Desert Sun
Hispanic State Of The Union
Special to The Desert Sun
February 3, 2005
Congresswoman Grace Flores Napolitano, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, issued the following statement prior to President Bushs State of the Union address.
"Today, President Bush will deliver his annual State of the Union address. At this important juncture in his administration, the Latino community will be watching closely to see if he regards us with respect and dignity and values our contributions to this great nation or if he will relegate us to second class citizens as we have seen him do to other decent, hard-working Americans.
As several segments of the Latino population, including youth and the elderly, continue to grow at a rapid pace, a number of issues that are already extremely important to Latinos will become even more so in the years to come. Among these key issues are Social Security, education and immigration.
Currently, the President is attempting to garner support for his Social Security proposal that will privatize this benchmark program that for 70 years has provided financial stability for millions of people. Under President Bushs program, individuals will be left to invest their hard earned dollars in a risky stock market rather than have their contributions set aside for the future.
The privatization of Social Security would disproportionately affect Latinos in a negative way. Three quarters of Latinos who are 65 years or older depend on this program for more than half of their income. If privatization occurs, 33 percent of Latino seniors would fall below the poverty line. The President forgets that this program was formed after the Great Depression to create a security net for seniors, not to drive them into another financial calamity.
Social Security is vital to Latinos because we have lower earnings, higher rates of unemployment, longer life expectancies, higher rates of employment disability, and are less likely to have retirement income from other sources. Separate and apart from Social Security, we should create mechanisms to encourage more savings by low-income individuals.
The CHC will reject any proposal that puts at risk Social Securitys promise to insure workers and their families against lost wages due to retirement, disability, or death. We will work to save, strengthen, and secure Social Security.
The CHC hopes the President outlines a plan for Social Security that secures the financial stability of millions of todays and tomorrows seniors.
On the issue of education, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the country. Hispanic children are second only to non-Hispanic whites in our nations schools. By 2010, Hispanics will be the largest minority group in our nations workforce. Yet Hispanic children are the least likely to attend preschool, the most likely to drop out of school before earning a high school diploma, and the least likely to earn a college degree. Only 52 percent of Hispanic students graduated high school in 2001
The CHC is looking for the President to fulfill the promise to America's youth by fully funding the No Child Left Behind Act. Failure to do so sends an unequivocal message to our youth that their future, and ours, is not a national priority. High school reform must mean higher graduation rates for our community. In this area the Presidents actions ring louder than his words. Every year, the President attempts to eliminate the No Child Left Behind program devoted to dropout prevention.
The CHC hopes the President demonstrates that he is committed to closing the educational attainment gap for the Latino community and ensures that all schools, from elementary schools to colleges, receive the funds necessary to provide a quality education.
Another key concern for Latinos is immigration. Last year the President outlined a plan that, instead of creating a path for hard working immigrants to attain citizenship, would create a temporary worker program that, at best, is a temporary solution that relegates immigrants to second-class citizens.
Immigrants have always taken on the toughest jobs while earning the least amount of pay. They contribute to the tax base, open small businesses that create jobs, serve in the U.S. military and the war on terror and enrich the unique diversity of America through our social and cultural contributions
Comprehensive immigration reform, at a minimum, must include the following components. First, it should bring the full community of undocumented immigrants out of hiding in the shadows and provide them an opportunity to earn legal status through hard work, payment of taxes and good moral character. It must also include a complete overhaul of the family immigration process and allow for the reunification of families long-separated by bureaucratic backlogs.
To minimize tragedy and death on our borders, the reform should also create a new temporary worker program that provides a safe and legal path for workers to fill job vacancies when American workers can't be found. Such a break-the-mold program should protect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers, provide equal labor rights, and offer an optional path to legal residence.
The CHC hopes the President offers a revised immigration plan that offers real financial and social opportunities that improve the lives of those that come to this country.
The members of the CHC look forward to working with the President to secure and improve the livelihood and lives of the millions of Latinos now living in the United States and those that will come seeking a brighter future."