By Maria del Carmen Salazar, Ph.D.
Dr. Maria del Carmen Salazar
Dr. Maria del Carmen Salazar of the University of Denver served as the lead author on “Agenda Latina,” a report that evaluated the current economic, health and educational state of Latinos in the nation. The dismal findings are not new but are underscored by a new sense of urgency in light of accelerating disparities experienced by Latinos, along with, aggressive federal enforcement of current immigration laws which has adversely impacted the Latino community and is revealing to play a part in the impediment of the overall future progress of Latinos.
The University of Denver Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship (DULCCES) is set to release a comprehensive document titled, Agenda Latina The State of Latinos 2008: Defining an Agenda for the Future.
The Agenda Latina presents the most pressing issues facing the Latino community in the areas of education, the economy, health, immigration, and political engagement. DULCCES faculty rigorously researched each topic and consulted national experts. In addition, we consulted leaders from Denver community organizations to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of the issues on the Latino community.
While we speak in generalizations, we acknowledge the intra-group diversity that exists within the Latino community including national origin, immigration status, language proficiency, and socioeconomic status. Our research indicates that the Latino population is the fastest growing and youngest ethnic group in the country.
They also face increasing disparities in education, economic opportunities, and healthcare. For example, Latinos in the U.S. experience persistent achievement gaps from pre-school to graduate school. That is to say, Latinos drop out of high school at greater rates, and have lower high school and college graduation rates than other ethnic groups. Overall, Latinos are unprepared for the educational and career demands of the 21st century.
In addition, Latinos in the U.S. experience higher unemployment rates than other ethnic groups, are disproportionately impacted by the higher cost of living, face increasing wealth disparities, and have limited access to affordable credit. Latinos also experience greater disparities in access to quality healthcare, including growing disparities in the rates of life-threatening diseases, a widespread lack of insurance in the Latino community, lack of health-related education, and an inadequate supply of bilingual language services and culturally competent services.
We found that a lack of comprehensive immigration reform increases disparities and limits the future progress of the Latino community and the nation.
In regards to political engagement, Latinos are becoming increasingly engaged in the political arena and represent an electorate with great potential for significant impact.
However, increased efforts are needed to increase voting rates.
Our overall recommendations include increasing Latino’s access to quality education, healthcare, and economic services. We advocate for support in building the wealth and financial stability of the Latino community.
There must also be an increase in linguistically and culturally relevant practices in education, healthcare, economic access, immigration reform, and political engagement. In addition, advancing comprehensive and humane immigration reform is essential to the future prosperity of the Latino community.
Finally, we must increase opportunities to build alliances among organizations that support Latino community development.
We will present our Agenda Latina to members of the U.S. Congress on September 23, 2008 in the United States Capitol in Washington D.C.
The time is now. We must refuse to be relegated to the back of the bus. We are a vibrant community with vast natural resources. We desire self-sufficiency and strive for prosperity for our community and our nation.
The time is now! Rise mi gente, rise!