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Latinos’ threats to Democrats over immigration reform don’t make sense

LatinaLista — National polls have been showing that more and more Latinos have become disenchanted with President Obama. So much so that some Latino organizations have issued a warning to Democrats to not blame the Latino electorate if the GOP wins more elections this November, ousting the Democrat majority in the Senate.

Perhaps it’s against this backdrop that the White House issued a fact sheet today pointing out all the ways President Obama’s administration has worked for the Latino community and an aide has made public assurances that Obama will act on immigration reform by the end of the year.

Obama’s delay in using his Executive Action to override some of the objections and obstacles put into place by Republican congressional representatives has indeed angered many in the Latino community, especially those who see firsthand, either in their own families or communities, the fear of deportations on the faces of children and parents and the traumatic separation of families.

It’s unfortunate that President Obama’s delay in helping ease this pain is based on politics. Yet, it’s not surprising. After all, politics is nothing but a game. It’s just too bad that it plays with people’s lives.

Though Obama’s response was disappointing, it’s not half as surprising as the threats and calls by Latinos to not vote for the Democrats, as if the GOP would be anymore merciful, compassionate or supportive.

It has become increasingly alarming that the GOP have so many members within their ranks who take pride in revealing how they would turn back the clock on the progress made on behalf of Latinos and others of color.

For example, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has made it no secret, that if he had his way DACA would disappear, and so would all the DREAMers who benefited from it.

Not since before the Civil Rights Act was signed into law has there been such an assault by GOP-lead state legislators on the civil rights of people of color. The latest being the manipulation of voting rights laws altering hours and proof of ID.

And when it comes to income inequality, conservatives just pretend it doesn’t exist, or fault the poor for not making as much money as others in higher income brackets. One recent attempt to dismiss income inequality garnered an appropriate headline in the LA Times: Watch a conservative economist try to wish income inequality away

Wishing alone doesn’t bring change. It takes hard work and the vision of seeing what the reality is and how the future can be.

Fact Sheet: President Obama and the Hispanic Community

The President believes that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed, and your ability to get ahead should be determined by your hard work, ambition, and goals – not by the circumstances of your birth.

The President’s top priority remains ensuring middle class Americans feel secure in their jobs, homes and budgets. To build real, lasting economic security, the President will work with Congress and act on his own to expand opportunity for all so that every American can get ahead and have a shot at creating a better life for their kids.

Since taking office, every issue the Obama Administration has addressed has been of vital importance to the Hispanic community, from promoting job creation and a fair wage to addressing climate change, from making sure that every American has access to quality health care and a good education to fighting for commonsense immigration reform and standing up for the civil rights of all Americans.

The President believes that our country was built on and continues to thrive on its diversity. The President knows that the success of the Hispanic community is directly tied to the success of our nation. If Hispanics thrive, our entire nation will thrive.

The Obama Administration’s record of supporting and expanding opportunity for Hispanics includes:

Strengthening Our Economy: Jobs and economic security are central to Latino families. The President’s top priority remains ensuring middle class Americans feel secure in their jobs, homes and budgets. The President is also directing investment toward American manufacturing, infrastructure, and American workers to ensure our workers are competitive in the global economy.

Ensuring Access to Quality Educational Opportunities for Hispanic Students: The future of our nation is inextricably linked to the future of the Hispanic community. Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in our nation’s schools and President Obama has made sure that the Hispanic community is included in efforts to advance education opportunities for all Americans.

· The number of Hispanic students enrolled in college jumped by 45 percent from 2008 to 2012, with over a million Hispanic students enrolled today.
· Right now, our high school graduation rate is the highest it’s been in 30 years, and the Latino dropout rate has been cut in half since 2000.
· The President’s budget has made key investments in early learning programs, such as Preschool for All, Head Start, and child care, to improve access to high-quality early education, so that children enter school ready to learn.
· Approximately 21 percent of the children served in federally-supported child care programs are Latinos, as are 37 percent of participants in Head Start.
· President Obama has improved the quality of education – particularly in our lowest-performing schools – and has expanded access to college because every child deserves an education that equips him or her with the skills to find a good-paying job and succeed in the workforce.

Ensuring Young People have the Opportunity to Reach Their Full Potential: The President is expanding opportunities for all young people to succeed.

· Creating Opportunities for Boys and Young Men of Color: The President unveiled the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color – including Latinos – to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. As part of the initiative’s launch, the President also established the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force to review public and private sector programs, policies, and strategies and determine ways the Federal Government can better support these efforts, and how to better involve State and local officials, the private sector, and the philanthropic community.

· Strengthening the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics: Educational achievement gaps also continue to exist for Hispanic girls. In 2010, President Obama signed Executive Order 13555, renewing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics to help address these disparities. In December 2013, the Initiative issued approximately 50 recommendations – addressing issues ranging from quality early learning to family engagement to postsecondary completion — which will significantly improve educational outcomes for Hispanic girls and young women.

· Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Students: Parenting at any age can be challenging, but it can be particularly difficult for adolescent parents. Across the country, teen pregnancy rates are at historic lows and pregnancy rates for Hispanic teens have seen a dramatic recent decline. From 2007 to 2012, the teen birth rate declined by 39 percent for Hispanics. First proposed by President Obama in his 2010 budget, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) initiative, continues to support evidence-based, age-appropriate teen pregnancy prevention programs. In June 2013, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague Letter and Pamphlet on “Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972” (June 25, 2013) to help support pregnant and parenting students. The letter and pamphlet, which were sent to school districts, colleges and universities across the country, contain information on effective strategies to support students who become pregnant or father children as well as guidance on educational institutions’ legal obligations under Title IX.

Ensuring Access to Affordable Health Care: The Affordable Care Act is making health care more accessible and affordable for Latinos who were previously locked out or priced out of quality health insurance. Millions of Latinos have already gained coverage through Medicaid and the Health Insurance Marketplace, and millions more will be able to sign up for coverage in the months to come.

· The Obama Administration has made great strides in giving Latinos greater control over their health care. Latinos, who have the highest rates of un-insurance, are one of the groups that benefit most from the Affordable Care Act.
· 8.8 million Latinos with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing.
· 913,000 Latino young adults between ages 19-25 were able to stay on a parent’s insurance.
· An estimated 4.9 million Latinas with private health insurance now have guaranteed access to women’s preventive services without cost sharing.

Raising the Minimum Wage to $10.10: President Obama has called on Congress to give hardworking Americans the raise they deserve by increasing the national minimum wage to $10.10. Nearly twenty-five percent of those who would benefit from a minimum wage increase are Hispanic workers. President Obama also signed an Executive Order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for workers on new Federal contracts.

· It is long past due to increase the minimum wage that will lift millions of hardworking families out of poverty and in the process produce a ripple effect that boosts wages for the middle class and spurs economic growth in the U.S.
· Raising the minimum wage will make sure no family of four with a full-time worker has to raise their children in poverty. It has been seven years since Congress last acted to increase the minimum wage and, adjusted for inflation, today the real value of minimum wage is roughly the same as what it was in the 1950s, despite the fact that the typical American family’s income has doubled since then. And right now a full-time minimum wage worker makes $14,500 a year, which leaves too many families struggling to make ends meet.

Fixing Our Broken Immigration System: President Obama remains deeply committed to the passage of commonsense immigration reform but in the absence of legislation from Congress, the President is determined to act, within the scope of his authority, to fix as much of our broken immigration system as he can through executive action.

· Two years ago, the Obama Administration lifted the shadow of deportation from young people who are American in every way but on paper through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Under DACA, hundreds of thousands of young people, who are very low enforcement priorities, have received temporary relief from deportation.
· At the same time, DHS is focusing its limited enforcement resources on key priorities, including national security, border security and public safety threats such as convicted criminals.
· President Obama has repeatedly pressed Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform that would add more than one trillion dollars to our economy, secure our border, help American workers get a fairer deal, and provides a pathway to earned citizenship.

Protecting Civil Rights: The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has been re-invigorated over the past five years protecting the constitutional and statutory rights of all Americans.

· Protecting Voting Rights: The Division’s Voting Section’s unrivaled enforcement activity has spanned all of the voting rights laws that the Department enforces. For example, the Division has vigorously enforced a number of important protections for language minorities, so that eligible citizens are not precluded from full and equal participation in the electoral process based on their language ability. This includes litigation or settlement agreements to protect Spanish-speaking voters in Riverside County, California; Cuyahoga County and Lorain County, Ohio; Orange County, New York; and Fort Bend County, Texas; to protect Spanish-speaking and Chinese-speaking voters in Alameda County, California; and to protect Native American voters in Shannon County, South Dakota; and Cibola County and Sandoval County, New Mexico.

· Expanding Access to Courts for People with Limited English Proficiency: Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, recipients of federal financial assistance, including state courts that receive funds from the Department of Justice, have an obligation to ensure that people with limited English skills can meaningfully access the programs or services the recipients offer. In the courtroom context, the stakes are high: a person with limited proficiency in English cannot effectively participate in a proceeding without language assistance. That is why the Division initiated a Courts Language Access Initiative that, through a combination of enforcement and policy, technical assistance, and collaboration, has successfully helped ensure that those who cannot speak or understand English have access to justice. Through this Initiative, the Division has entered into agreements with court systems from Colorado to Maine to ensure that free interpreter services and other language access tools are available to everyone. The Division has also issued a guidance letter to all chief justices and administrators of state court systems clarifying the obligation of courts that receive federal financial assistance to provide oral interpretation, written translation, and other language assistance services to people who are limited English proficient in all proceedings and court operations.

· Protecting the Civil Rights of all Women, including Women of Color: The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has been re-invigorated over the past five years, and much of its work has protected the constitutional and statutory rights of women, often young women of color. Among a significant body of work, the Division has used the Fair Housing Act to protect women from severe and pervasive sexual harassment by landlords. The Division has also worked to help combat violence against women. For example, after investigating the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), the Division found that NOPD was failing to properly investigate violence against women. The Division also found that NOPD failed to provide critical policing services to language minority communities, and entered into a consent decree to address these findings. The Division also expressed concerns about the failure to properly investigate violence against women in investigations of the Puerto Rico Police Department and Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff’s Office. The Division is also working to improve the Juvenile Justice system, including efforts to address the conditions in the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility where the Division found that the facility was failing to provide girls with adequate protection from harm, mental health care and special education services.

Addressing Climate Change: Climate change poses serious threats to the Hispanic community, endangering the health and livelihood of millions of Latinos in the US. With climate change comes increased ozone pollution that worsens air quality in Hispanic communities – who are already struggling with disproportionately high asthma rates. Today, Latino children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than white children. While the United States has limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels. That is why in June 2014, EPA released the Clean Power Plan – the first-ever proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. Nationwide, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by approximately 30 percent from 2005 levels. It will also reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent. These reductions will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030. This includes avoiding up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in 2030.

Ensuring Affordable and Secure Homeownership: One of the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class is a home to call your own, and the President is committed to helping responsible homeowners, including millions of Latinos – save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s low interest rates, cutting red tape so responsible families can get a mortgage and building a rock-solid housing finance system by turning the page on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And the DOJ has vigorously enforced civil rights laws to address discrimination in lending. To date, in fair lending and fair housing cases, the Division has obtained over $660 million in monetary relief for impacted communities and for more than 300,000 individual borrowers.

Funding Culturally and Linguistically Specific Programs to Help Women of Color who Have Experienced Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: More than one-third of Hispanic women have been the victim of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Department of Justice funds grants to provide culturally and linguistically specific services in underserved communities. Through these grants, community-based providers partner with domestic violence and sexual assault programs to develop services that are relevant and driven by community needs. Over the past five years, the Department has provided $43 million in grants to develop these services. The Department of Health and Human Services also funds the Institute on Domestic Violence in the National Latin@ Network to advance effective, culturally specific remedies for domestic violence.

· The Office of Women’s Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, with funding from the HHS Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, develops and facilitates programs that target women and girls of color who are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Programs have focused on adolescent girls at risk for juvenile delinquency, female partners of incarcerated/recently released men, and HIV-positive women living in Puerto Rico.

Addressing Human Trafficking: Human trafficking victims are disproportionately minority girls. Over the past five years, working with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice has investigated and prosecuted record numbers of human sex and labor trafficking cases. At the President’s behest, the Administration developed the first-ever, government-wide strategic action plan to strengthen services for trafficking victims – a plan that is comprehensive, action-oriented, and designed to address the needs of all victims. Numerous federal agencies are also providing services to trafficking survivors, and significant grant money goes to non-governmental agencies that work with survivors.

Partnering With Communities to Expand Opportunity: Announced in last year’s State of the Union Address, as part of the President’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle class partners businesses with hard-hit local communities to put people back to work and increase opportunity by creating “Promise Zones,” many of which are in cities with high Hispanic populations.

· Each Zone identifies clear goals to revitalize their communities with a focus on creating jobs, increasing economic activity, improving access to education opportunities and quality, affordable housing, and reducing violent crime.
· The first five Promise Zones, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, have each put forward a plan on how they will partner with local business and community leaders to make investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity.

Promoting the Growth and Global Competiveness of Minority Business – Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is the only federal agency dedicated to the growth and development of US minority-owned businesses. During FY13, MBDA assisted minority-owned businesses in obtaining more than $4.8 billion in capital and contract awards, which led to the creation and/or retention of 25,704 jobs.

· Hispanic-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing in the nation and the number of Hispanic-owned businesses increased nearly 44 percent to 2.3 million between 2002 and 2007, more than twice the national average of all U.S. businesses. The total number of U.S. businesses during the same period increased 18 percent to 27.1 million.

Building A New Era of Partnerships in the Americas: President Obama has opened up a new era of partnership with our neighbors in the Americas. Throughout the Americas, we are engaged in a common cause to strengthen citizen security and democratic institutions, expand economic opportunity and prosperity, promote social inclusion for all, including vulnerable populations, and develop a clean and secure energy future while working together to address climate change.

Deepening Connections between the People of the Americas: President Obama’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative aims to dramatically increase the number of students pursuing study abroad in our hemisphere. More than cultural exchange, there are critical skills that are needed to grow our economies are gained only through studying overseas.

Increasing Diversity to Ensure the Federal Government Better Reflects the Face of America: President Obama has named more Hispanics to top posts than any of his predecessors including 3 Cabinet Secretaries, drawing appointees from a wide range of the nation’s Latino communities, including Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, Dominican-Americans and Colombian-Americans, among others. The President also appointed the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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