“In Nevada and across the nation we see the contributions of Hispanic Americans in every facet of our society… To ensure our country thrives, we must ensure its Hispanic population thrives as well.”
“Hispanic Heritage month should be one to celebrate, but also one to reflect on what we can do help Hispanic families succeed.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month to the United States of America. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Each year, Hispanic Heritage Month offers an opportunity to honor a community that has contributed to our country’s progress for centuries. In Nevada, the influence of Hispanic Americans is evident even in the name of the state – which means “snow capped.” And the name of our most famous city, Las Vegas, means “the meadows” in Spanish.
In fact, the first non-Native American to set eyes on the Las Vegas Valley was Rafael Rivera. I have a painting of him in my office. And although he and his horse are dressed in their finest in the painting, in reality he was probably hungry, thirsty and dusty by the time he spied what would one day become Las Vegas.
In Nevada and across the nation we see the contributions of Hispanic Americans in every facet of our society – on the battlefield and in the boardroom, in the courtroom and the classroom, at the art gallery and on the playing field. Hispanic-Americans have also played an important role in this nation’s Armed Forces – serving in every conflict since the Revolutionary War. And more than 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses employ millions of Americans, provide crucial goods and services and drive our economy.
Nationwide, Latinos are expected to make up 60 percent of population growth in coming decades. To ensure our country thrives, we must ensure its Hispanic population thrives as well.
Hispanic Heritage month should be one to celebrate, but also one to reflect on what we can do help Hispanic families succeed. And this year affords a special moment for reflection, as the nation commemorates 50 years since the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The struggle for equality, justice, and freedom is ongoing. But through civic engagement, Hispanic Americans and all Americans can make heard in Washington their support for quality education and health care, a living wage and the right to vote without intimidation or discrimination.
Congress heard the calls for quality, affordable health insurance. Passing the Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare – was a huge step forward for Hispanic families in Nevada and across the country. More than 160,000 Latinos in Nevada and more than 10 million Hispanics nationwide who currently lack health insurance will be eligible for coverage through the new Marketplaces. Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act exchanges begins on October 1.
Congress heard the calls for opportunity during tough economic times. Democrats made small business loans possible for 11,000 Hispanic-owned businesses. We have significantly cut predatory and discriminatory lending practices that disproportionately affected Hispanic communities. And last year Congress cut taxes for 98 percent of American families, including every middle-class family.
Congress also heard the calls for fair, practical immigration reform. And this year the United States Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill that will reform America’s legal immigration system and reduce the deficit by $1 trillion over the next two decades. This measure will also help 11 million people – people tired of looking over their shoulders and fearing deportation – to get right with the law and start down an earned pathway to citizenship. But the Senate is still waiting for Republicans in the House to allow a vote on our bipartisan compromise. 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?
I look forward to Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to support the 52 million Latinos in America through my work in the Senate. To me, Hispanic Heritage Month is about recognizing the incredible contributions of Hispanic Americans to our nation. But it is also about building a brighter future for Hispanic Americans in our nation.