Today’s presidential campaign cycle has elevated anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and policy proposals to new heights. These attacks target a community that is already marginalized. But with more than 58 million Latinos in the U.S.— 28 million of whom are eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election, Latinos remain determined to counter such fear-mongering by cultivating a culture of civic engagement in this nation’s public affairs. As such, any serious candidate for federal office must address the issues that impact America’s Latino community.
By 2050, Latinos will number over 100 million, comprising more than a quarter of the entire population. The community’s electoral significance is growing. Indeed, registered Latino voters have grown by 26 percent between each of the last four presidential elections. Latinos have a decisive role in the outcome of this election and the future political landscape.
Despite the tremendous demographic change, Latinos continue to face profound challenges, including wealth gaps, health disparities and the harsh realities of flawed immigration and criminal justice systems. This is why we at the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA)—a coalition of the nation’s 40 leading Latino advocacy organizations—release a comprehensive policy agenda every four years. This agenda provides policymakers a roadmap to address the Latino concerns and outlines opportunities for partnerships beyond the community in working toward a more inclusive society.
Released today, the 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda presents recommendations to strengthen the economy, education, immigration, civil rights, the environment and health, and addresses Latino representation in government. The report highlights policies to improve the lives of Latina women and girls, the criminal justice system, violence prevention, and LGBT community.
On immigration, we continue to call for a fix to our nation’s failed system by providing a path to legal status and citizenship for the majority of undocumented immigrants currently in the country. We call on the next administration to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers, youth brought to the U.S. as children. The next president will have discretion to decide whether DACA continues. Without it, we would deprive our nation of much-needed skilled and well-educated workers by curtailing young people from starting their careers or pursuing higher education. The NHLA will push for relief from deportation to a larger number of individuals, as President Obama’s executive actions of November 2014 would do, but which are currently under Supreme Court review.
The agenda also calls for the next president to address the underrepresentation of Latinos in the federal workforce. In 2014, Hispanics represented 16.1 percent of the civilian labor force, yet only 8.4 percent of the Federal Government’s workforce and 4.4 percent of the career Senior Executive Service. If we want a government that reflects America’s diversity and be effective for all, then these numbers must change. We are calling for an executive order on Hispanic employment that firmly requires managers to meet Hispanic hiring goals or face negative performance ratings, and eliminate the citizenship requirement for federal employment unless constitutionally mandated.
Last September, we launched outreach to all of the presidential candidates and have met with three of them so far. Now, concurrent with the agenda release, we are sending each candidate a questionnaire, requesting that they decisively state how they will address the community’s concerns. Their responses will provide an additional tool for all Americans to understand where the candidates stand on the diverse issues reflected in our policy agenda.
We are undertaking this effort in good faith, to educate our nation’s next chief executive. But we are also frustrated that a share of the population as large as ours, which contributes to the economic, social and cultural life and security of our nation, and which continues to grow in importance, is used as a political punching bag.
It is, therefore, all the more significant that we, as a united coalition, stand together in presenting our priorities this year, which also coincides with NHLA’s 25th anniversary. It is time for Latinos to be taken with utmost seriousness. Those seeking the nation’s highest office must tell us precisely where they stand on our most pressing priorities. We want action not rhetoric. It is time for real solutions.