Senate Democrats

THE STATE OF OUR UNION FOR HISPANICS UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH

The 41.3 million Hispanics living in the United States today make up one-seventh of the nation’s population and are considered by the US Census Bureau to be the fastest-growing ethnicity in the country. Yet, the Bush Administration has done little to improve the lives of Hispanics in America. Instead, President Bush has supported policies that squander the hard-earned dollars of workers and endanger the financial security of every Hispanic family living in the United States today, with trillions in deficits, debt, and unprecedented borrowing from foreign lenders.

The State of Our Economy

No Improvement in the Number and Rate of Hispanics Living in Poverty. Nearly 22 percent of Hispanics in the United States live in poverty, compared with 12.7 percent of the overall population. According to the most recent data available from the US Census Bureau, no improvements were made in the rate of poverty or the number of individuals in poverty for Hispanics in the United States from 2003-2004. [US Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 8/30/05]

No Improvement in Housing Affordability for Hispanics. Housing actually reached a 14-year low in 2005. Median monthly home ownership costs, including mortgage payments, have risen nearly 5 percent since President Bush has taken office. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Soaring house prices and higher mortgage rates have put homeownership out of reach for more people than at any time in more than a decade… Affordability has long been a problem for low-income home buyers. But as home prices have marched steadily higher in recent years, many buyers with healthier incomes also are being squeezed.” [Census Bureau; Wall Street Journal, 12/22/05]

No Improvement in Income for Hispanics. Working families are working harder and earning less today than they were at the start of this administration. Average household income for working families when adjusted for inflation was $46,058 in 2000 and has declined to $44,389 today. At the same time, they have seen their real wages decline, the productivity of the American worker is up 13.5%. Meanwhile, the median household income for Hispanics lags nearly $15,000 behind the overall population. From 2003-2004 Hispanics actually saw a their household incomes decrease. [US Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 8/30/05; Bureau of Labor Statistics]

No Improvement in Private Sector Job Growth. Over the course of President Bush’s full five years in office, his Administration has the worst private sector job creation record since Herbert Hoover more than 70 years ago. This translates into an average annual job growth rate of 3/10 of one percent per year since this Administration took office. [Joint Economic Committee 12/7/05] The manufacturing sector, often the source of jobs with good pay and benefits, has lost almost 3 million jobs since the beginning of 2001. This lack of job growth is particularly troubling given that we are so far into the economic recovery. While payroll employment grew by 215,000 in November 2005 and economists expect a similar growth figure for December, it was not uncommon to see monthly job gains of 300,000 and even 400,000 during economic expansions under previous Administrations. [Economic Policy Institute, The Boom That Wasn’t, 12/19/05.]

No Improvement in Unemployment. In part because of this failure to create a sufficient number of jobs, the national unemployment rate stands at 4.9 percent – nearly 20 percent higher than the 4.2 percent rate when President Bush took office; the Hispanic unemployment rate is at 6.0 percent – exactly what it was when President Bush took office in January 2001. [US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1/01; 1/06]

Democrats Aim to Restore Fiscal Responsibility: While supporting fiscally responsible middle-class tax relief, Democrats have opposed massive new tax breaks for special interests and multi-millionaires that would increase the deficit. In addition, Democrats have pushed to reestablish “pay as you go” rules that require all new tax cuts and spending to be offset, to prevent further increases in the budget deficit. Washington Republicans have made deficit-increasing tax breaks their top priority, while defeating proposals to reestablish fiscal discipline through the “pay as you go” rules. [RC 53, S. Amdt. 186 to S. Con. Res. 18, 3/16/05, 50-50; RC 283, S. Amdt. 2351 to S. 1932, 11/3/05, 50-49]

Democrats are Committed to Increase Wages: Democrats worked to increase the Federal minimum wage to restore the power of the minimum wage for working Americans. The Federal minimum wage has not been increased since 1997. Since 1997, Members of Congress have passed pay increases for themselves seven times, equivalent to a raise of $28,500 or nearly three times the income of a worker earning the Federal minimum wage. Senator Kennedy introduced an amendment that would increase the Federal minimum wage by $1.10 to $7.75 an hour. The amendment was rejected by Senate Republicans. [RC 257, S. Amdt. 2063 to H.R. 3058, 10/19/05, 47-51]

The State of Our Health Care

No Improvement in Health Care Costs. The cost of family health insurance has skyrocketed 57 percent since President Bush took office. The typical American family must now pay $9,950 per year for health insurance compared with $6,348 in 2000. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

No Improvement in Health Care Coverage. Latinos face the highest uninsurance rate in the nation and almost 46 million Americans are living without health insurance. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of Hispanics who are uninsured has increased from 13.2 million to 13.7 million. From 2002-2004, the average rate of uninsured Hispanics (32.6 percent) was higher than the rate for Whites, Blacks, Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders. [US Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 8/30/05]

No Improvement in Health Care Disparities for Hispanics. Hispanics have actually experienced an erosion of health care treatment under the Bush Administration. According to a report recently released by the Department of Health and Human Services, “Hispanics received poorer quality of care than non-Hispanic Whites.” The report also revealed that, “for racial minorities, more disparities in quality of care are becoming smaller than are becoming larger; for Hispanics, the reverse is true.” [HHS, National Healthcare Disparities Report, December 2005]

Democrats Are Committed to Closing the Disparity Gap in Health Care. Democrats are committed to eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health care because everyone deserves equal treatment in health care. The health of every community is enhanced when we work to promote health care equality for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. Democrats have introduced legislation to address racial and ethnic health disparities that focuses on expanding the health care safety net, diversifying the health care workforce, combating diseases that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities, emphasizing prevention and behavioral health, promoting the collection and dissemination of data and enhancing medical research, and providing interpreters and translation services in the delivery of health care. [S.1580, Healthcare Equality and Accountability Act]

Democrats Are Working to Cut the Cost of Prescription Drugs: Democrats have proposed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate for better prices. Washington Republicans have blocked these proposals on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. [RC 60, S. Amdt. 214 to S. Con. Res. 18, 3/17/05, 49-50; S. 334; RC 302, S.AMDT.2371 to S. 1932, 11/3/05, 51-48]

The State of Our Access to Education

No Improvement in the Cost of College for Hispanic Families. Tuition and fees at four-year private universities have increased by almost $1,200 or 5.9 percent in 2005 and 32 percent since 2001. At four-year public universities, tuition and fees increased by 7.1 percent this past year and 57 percent since President Bush took office. [College Board, 10/05]

No Improvement in Closing Achievement Gaps for Latino Students. Despite the Administration’s rhetoric surrounding closing achievement gaps between minority students and their White counterparts, the Latino student achievement gap remains as wide as ever. Fourth-grade Latino students scored 27 points below their White counterparts in reading and 21 points below in Math in the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress)

No Improvement in the Latino School Dropout Crisis. According to the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics data, the dropout rate for Hispanics is still more than twice the rate than it is for the overall population and roughly four times the dropout rate for Whites. [US Census Bureau, 2000; NCES, 2002] Yet the Bush Administration cut funding for Dropout prevention in its last four budgets.

Democrats Are Working Hard to Make College More Affordable and Accessible for Latino Students. Only 10% of Latinos have received a bachelor’s degree. Democrats proposed to expand student aid and make college tuition deductible. Instead, Washington Republicans just voted for the largest student aid cut in our nation’s history, so that the savings can be used for special interest tax breaks. [RC 363, S. 1932, 12/21/05, 50-50 (Vice President Cheney Cast the Tie-breaking Vote)] Further, funding for Hispanic Serving Institutions was targeted in the Republican budget.

Democrats Fought for Latino Education Programs. Democrats fought for increased funding for key educational programs that are proven to increase Hispanic educational success and were targeted for cuts in the Republican budget, including Dropout Prevention, English Language Acquisition, English as A Second Language, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Parent and Family Resource Centers, Migrant Education Program, and HEP/CAMP (SA 2262, Hispanic Education Amendment introduced by Senator Bingaman to the FY06 Labor/Health and Human Services/Education appropriations bill on October 27, 2005)

Democrats Support Creating Opportunities for Disadvantaged Students to Attend College. Students from families with low incomes or who would be a first-generation college student encounter more obstacles preparing for and succeeding in college. Democrats support additional funding for TRIO programs, which help low-income, first-generation college students attend and complete college, and GEAR UP, a program that helps lower-income students consider and prepare early for college. (H.R. 3010, Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006, Public Law 109-149, 12/30/05)

Democrats Want to Improve Elementary and Secondary Education. The United States cannot afford to have its students lag behind the academic performance of their peers in other countries. Democrats support improving the landmark NCLB law and fully funding Title I, which provides resources to local school districts to help disadvantaged students succeed academically. Democrats also support creating a tuition-free program to provide incentives for future teachers to enter the math, science, and special education fields, which are often in short supply, and to support efforts to retain high-quality teachers. (H.R. 3010, Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006, Public Law 109-149, 12/30/05)

The State of Our Energy Costs

No Improvement in Winter Heating Costs for Hispanic Families. The cost of heating fuels has skyrocketed, leaving American families unprepared to deal with unprecedented increases in heating bills. The cost of heating a home for the winter has increased by $438, or 79 percent, since the winter of 2001-2002. [Energy Information Administration, Short Term Energy Outlook, 12/6/05]

No Improvement in the Cost of Transportation for Hispanic Families. Prices at the gas pump have jumped 55 percent from $1.44 per gallon in January 2001 to $2.23 in January 2006, while the price for a barrel of oil has more than doubled from $29.26 in January 2001 to $62.70 in January 2006. The average household with children will spend about $3,225 on transportation fuel costs this year, an increase of 69 percent over 2001 costs. [Energy Information Administration, Household Vehicle Energy Use: Latest Data and Trends, 11/05 and Weekly Retail Gasoline and Diesel Prices]

Democrats Are Committed to Cutting the Cost of Gas Prices: Democrats have proposed to crack down on price gouging and market manipulation, but Washington Republicans have blocked such efforts on behalf of the oil and gas industry. [S. 1735]

Democrats Aim to Provide Relief from Skyrocketing Home Heating Prices: Democrats proposed to provide relief to Americans struggling with rising home heating costs, through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and were rejected three times by Republicans. However, while Washington Republicans have approved a variety of new subsidies for the energy industry, during last minute budget negotiations they dropped an increase in LIHEAP assistance that would have helped ordinary families. [RC 250, S. Amdt. 2033 to H.R. 2863, 10/5/05, 50-49; RC 261, S. Amdt. 2077 to H.R. 3058, 10/20/05, 53-46; RC 270, S. 2194 to H.R. 3010, 10/26/05, 54-43]

The State of Immigration Reform

President Bush has been Unable to Advance Immigration Reform Through Republican-controlled Congress. For the third year in a row, the President will use the State of the Union address to call for immigration reform. Caught between the conservative, anti-immigrant right-wing of his party and more moderate, pro-business Republicans, President Bush has not provided the leadership or dedication necessary to advance realistic, workable reform in Congress. [Multiple State of the Union Addresses]

More Deaths. Increased enforcement near urban centers has not stopped the illegal flow, but merely encouraged immigrants to cross in more remote areas where they would be more difficult to catch and more likely to die. This last year, a record 460 undocumented immigrants died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border between October 1, 2004 and September 30, 2005. [Chicago Tribune, 10/2/05]

The Border is Less Secure. Between 1999 and 2004, the number of agents in the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol increased by 56 percent, while the number of arrests increased by 4 percent. The number of Border Patrol agents on the U.S.-Mexico border over the last two decades tripled while the immigration enforcement budget increased by a factor of ten, but, during approximately that same period, the probability of catching immigrants illegally crossing the border has fallen from about 33 to 5 percent. [Tucson Citizen, 11/4/05; CATO Institute, Center for Trade Policy Studies, 6/13/05]

Lax Enforcement on Employers Raises Concerns. Between 1999 and 2004, the number of notices of intent to fine an employer for employing undocumented immigrants dropped from 417 to fewer than 5, according to the G.A.O. In fact, in fiscal 2004, the Department of Homeland Security issued just three notices of intent to fine employers and actually fined none. In 2005, the administration targeted only one employer for an enforcement action, Wal-Mart. [New York Times, 12/2/05; Los Angeles Times, 12/28/05; San Jose Mercury News, 12/29/05].

Bush Supported an Extreme, Anti-Immigrant Bill in the House of Representatives. In December, the White House announced its support for a mean-spirited, extreme, anti-immigrant bill in the House of Representatives that has very little to do with securing our borders and instead demonizes and punishes our nation’s hardworking immigrant community. [Statement of Administration Policy, 12/15/05; Miami Herald, editorial, 12/15/05; Seattle Times, editorial, 1/2/06]

Democrats Support Realistic Reforms to Protect American Values. Democrats support bipartisan, realistic, and workable immigration policies that will reunite families, provide for continued American economic growth, protect the rights of American workers, and honor the values of the United States of America as a nation of immigrants. [Reid letter to Bush, 11/28/05]

Democrats Support Effective Enforcement Plus Smart Reform. Democrats believe we can solve our immigration crisis by combining tougher and more effective enforcement of our immigration laws with realistic reforms. [Reid letter to Bush, 11/28/05]

Democrats are Committed to Protect Americans from Terrorism. Immigration reform is a national security issue. The federal government needs to know who is living in our country and who is crossing our borders. We need to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so that we can conduct background checks on them and have records of who is in our country. We should be focusing our resources on capturing terrorists and criminals, not tracking down and deporting the millions of immigrants in our country simply trying to support their families. [New York Times, op-ed, 9/16/02; Palm Beach Post, editorial, 8/30/05]

The State of our Response to the Katrina Disaster

Bush Administration failed Latino Victims of Hurricane Katrina. During the response effort, Democrats urged the Administration to clarify that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials would put the life and safety of victims first and not take advantage of natural disasters or man-made emergencies to detain or deport immigrant victims, particularly since victims often lost documentation to prove their citizenship and immigration status. The Administration refused to adopt this position despite Democrats urgings and the fact that after 9-11 a similar policy was put in place. (Letter from Pamela Turner, on behalf of Sec. Chertoff, US Department of Homeland Security, October 2005)

Bush Administration created an environment where reconstruction workers, many whom are Latinos, are easily exploitable. The Administration lifted the Davis Bacon worker protection and I-9 worker inspection which gave employers the right to turn a blind eye to hiring immigrant workers, yet at the same time DHS raided immigrant labor for deportation. [Bush Suspends Pay Act In Areas Hit by Storm, The Washington Post, 9/9/06; D03]

Democrats immediately developed Katrina relief plan. Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, Senate Democrats introduced comprehensive relief legislation to facilitate a swift and effective federal response. The bill included provisions to address the region’s needs for health care, housing, education and financial relief. It also included a provision to protect the civil rights of victims. However, Senate Republicans have refused to act on the bill and have ignored many of the issues addressed by the legislation. [S.1637]

Democrats pushed for a commission to find the facts and improve disaster response. Senator Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have pushed for an independent commission to evaluate the Administration’s response to Katrina and to help improve disaster response in the future. However, Republicans have blocked the measure and have done little to oversee the Administration’s Katrina’s response. [S.1622]

The State of Honest Leadership in Government

Republicans Today Have Absolute Power. It has corrupted their Party and led to the culture of corruption we see in Washington, DC. America is suffering from a crisis of leadership. A wave of scandal has engulfed Washington, carrying in its wake leaders of both houses of Congress. The swirl of indictments, ethics violations, and criminal investigations has fueled Americans’ sense that it is time for a change. Meanwhile Latinos continue to be excluded from full access to the American Dream. Democrats believe in honest leadership and open government that reflect the values of Latino families and respects the needs of the community

Democrats Offer a Plan for Restoring Honest Leadership. Democrats will restore honest leadership by stopping the Republican corruption in its tracks, so America’s government can once again focus on the needs of America’s people. Democrats Propose to Create an Independent Office of Public Integrity; Republican’s Don’t. Democrats Propose to Open All Conference Committee Proceedings to the Public, Guarantee Members a Chance to Vote, and Make All Conference Committee Reports Available for 24 Hours; Republicans Don’t.

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