WASHINGTON, D.C. – While America’s Hispanic population exceeds 45 million, representing more than one in seven in the U.S. population, the unique contributions and needs of Hispanics in our Nation is often overlooked. In order to increase dialogue and understanding, the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force yesterday kicked off its action in the 110th Congress by hosting its first forum with leaders of major Hispanic organizations. The meeting was organized by Hispanic Task Force co-chairs Senators Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and featured Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, and other Democratic Senators. Over 20 top Hispanic leaders attended, many of whom are members of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a nonpartisan coalition of 40 major national Hispanic organizations and distinguished leaders from throughout the Nation, representing over 40 million Hispanics. During the meeting, participants and leaders in the Senate exchanged ideas on public policy for the Nation, and specifically the Hispanic community, and focused in four important issues areas:
- A study by the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center found that more than one-fifth of Hispanics between the ages of 16 and 19 are high school dropouts;
- Nationwide, nearly 14 million Hispanics – one in three – are without health coverage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau;
- Immigration Reform:
- America is currently home to 11 million undocumented residents, many of whom are Hispanics working hard for their families and contributing positively to their communities; and
- Federal Employment:
- Hispanic organizations urged Senate Democrats to focus on increasing Hispanic employment in the federal workforce. Senate Democrats pledged to continue to do everything in their power to ensure the highest levels of diversity in the federal government and in the halls of the U.S. Congress.
After the meeting, senators reflected upon the excellent dialogue coming out of this high-level meeting of Hispanic and Congressional leadership: "It was critical for Senate Democrats and national Latino leaders to meet early in the 110th Congress to discuss key priorities for the Hispanic community," Reid said. "While immigration reform is certainly on the forefront in the coming months, there are several additional areas of policy that must be addressed to bring equity, access, and opportunities to the Latino community. We discussed concrete policy priorities to tackle continued challenges faced by the community, including the high health care uninsurance rate among Latino children, and the disproportionate levels of high school drop out rates among Latino students. Senate Democrats are committed to advancing priorities for Hispanic families. I deeply appreciate the leadership of my friends Senators Menendez and Salazar, who brought this important meeting together and who will ensure that we take action on the priorities that strengthen Latino families and all of America." "Senate Democrats have an aggressive agenda this year that reflects the priorities of American families and acknowledges the contributions and needs of our vibrant and growing Hispanic communities. I applaud the leadership of Senator Salazar and Senator Menendez in chairing our Hispanic Task Force and organizing the first of what promises to be many productive discussions," Senator Stabenow said. "Yesterday’s meeting was positive and energetic," said Senator Salazar. "I look forward to building on the successful work of the Hispanic Task Force during this Congress and in the future to continue to build bridges with the Hispanic community." "Our meeting this week was a critical step toward building an influential, high-level dialogue between Hispanic leaders across the country and leaders of the U.S. Senate," Menendez said. "As co-chair of the Hispanic Task Force I will work to ensure that leaders of the Hispanic community always have a voice in shaping the policies and legislation advocated in the Senate. Furthermore, we will work to ensure that the leadership of the U.S. Senate is always aware of, and responsive to, the concerns of the Hispanic community." Photos from yesterday’s Hispanic Task Force meeting can be viewed by clicking here.
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