For some members of Congress, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the contributions Latinos have made to the United States. For others, it is also a time to reflect on the needs of the Latino community.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said for him, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to recognize the “profound contributions Latinos have made to our country.” He also said it is also a time to “honor” Latinos, like those serving in the U.S. armed forces and those working to achieve the American dream.
“Latinos share the same hope, determination and optimism that all those in our country seek: An opportunity to succeed based on hard work, access to a better education, and an equal treatment under our laws,” said Becerra, who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Several members of the House Republican Conference said in a bilingual video released Monday that for them, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to “celebrate the rich history, culture and contributions of Hispanic Americans.”
The video features top GOP leaders, like House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. It also features Latino Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Bill Flores of Texas, Raul Labrador of Idaho and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.
“Every single day, they contribute to the strength and culture of American society,” the GOP House members said in the video. “Hispanics help drive the American economy, serve in our nation’s defense, and possess a deep commitment to faith, family and community.”
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, pass immigration reform
Several members of Congress said Hispanic Heritage Month is also a time to reflect on the needs of the Latino community. They see immigration reform as a top issue for Latinos.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), an outspoken advocate for immigration reform, noted the Senate was already “successful” in passing an immigration reform bill earlier this year. He said now, as the nation celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s up to members in the House of Representatives “to do their job.”
“Millions of Hispanic immigrant families deserve a vote on a bill with a path to citizenship,” Reid said in a statement. “What better way to celebrate this important month than to pass a bill that would allow millions of families to stay together and reach their full potential?”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed with Reid. She said Congress should pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill to “honor the spirit and achievements of the Hispanic community” and “uphold the highest values of our nation.”
“In this Hispanic Heritage Month, the time is now to make the American Dream a reality for every immigrant and for every family,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Other needs of Latinos include: Economy and healthcare
Also at the top of the list of needs for Latinos is the economy and healthcare, some members of Congress said.
The Latino community was the hardest hit by the most recent recession. And even after four years since the recession officially ended, Latino workers continue to be disproportionally affected by the weak economic recovery.
In August, Latinos had an unemployment rate of 9.3 percent. That’s significantly higher than the national unemployment rate, which stood at 7.3 percent in August.
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, wants to address these issues. He said he and other Democratic leaders are “committed to creating jobs and strengthening economic growth” for Latinos.
“We are fighting for such initiatives as rebuilding America’s infrastructure, strengthening American manufacturing, investing in community colleges to train American workers in the skills that today’s employers need, and providing incentives for small businesses to grow and hire,” he stated.
When it comes to healthcare, Becerra noted 10.2 million of the 52 million Hispanics currently living in the U.S. are uninsured, making healthcare another top issue for Latinos. He said the good news for the 10.2 million uninsured Latinos is that they “will have new access to affordable, quality private health plans” through the Affordable Care Act.
Reid also said he sees healthcare as a top issue for many Latinos and reminded them that they can begin enrolling for the Affordable Care Act starting October 1.
“No group would benefit more from this law than Hispanics,” he said.
Originally published on VOXXI as Lawmakers: Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate, reflect