With the 2014 National Council of La Raza Conference in L.A. this week, the contrast between the Democratic and Republican agendas, and their impact on the Latino and Hispanic community, couldn’t be more clear.
While Democrats fight to grow the middle class and expand opportunity for all Americans, Republicans are more interested in expanding opportunity for a select few. From restricting access to the ballot box to fighting for tax breaks for those at the top instead of middle class families, their agenda is wrong for our nation. And when they aren’t busy blocking policies that will help all families in America get ahead, they’re using taxpayer dollars to score political points that will help them in the election.
Instead of joining the President to fight for necessary resources to provide essential care to these unaccompanied children and work toward a more secure border, Republicans are using these children as political pawns to further their own agenda.
On the other hand, we Democrats are focused on what will increase opportunity for everyone – especially those in the Hispanic and Latino communities. While we’ve seen steady job growth and a decrease in the unemployment rate, the unemployment rate in the Latino community is still at 7.8 percent. That’s why it’s so critical that Democrats have fought to pass an unemployment insurance extension so that those who are having trouble finding a job have money in their pocket to sustain themselves and their families while they search for work. And don’t just take my word for it. Earlier this year, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda sent a letter to the United States Senate urging them to pass an unemployment extension, but unfortunately Republicans did what they do best – said no.
We also know economically secure families with enough money to put food on the table and gas in the tank are good for our community. So President Obama and Democrats in Congress and in state capitols have fought persistently for an increase in the minimum wage. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute about the effects of a minimum wage increase to $10.10, nearly a quarter of those who would see higher wages are Hispanic, and a minimum wage increase would help to reverse the“ongoing erosion of wages that has contributed significantly to growing income inequality.” People who are working full-time shouldn’t have to remain in poverty. That’s why we are fighting to put in place measures in states across the country. But instead of joining us, Republicans from Rand Paul to Ted Cruz have stood against a commonsense increase in the minimum wage and others have argued for its elimination altogether.
But Democrats are also ensuring the next generation of Americans, including Latinos, have the tools they need to succeed. Increasingly, higher education is a prerequisite for reaching the middle class, but Hispanics are less likely than Whites to be enrolled in a four-year college, 56 percent-72 percent. Democrats want to reform our student loan system so that more young people can afford to go to college. But rather than coming to the table, Republicans blocked a bill that would have allowed students to refinance their loans and instead spent their time taking 50-something votes to repeal or undermine Obamacare.
If it was up to the GOP, insurance companies would still be in the driver’s seat – denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, kicking young adults off of their parents’ health insurance plans, and charging women more than men for insurance.
These economic opportunity agenda items are critical but equally critical is the crisis of our immigration system. We can all agree our system is broken. The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill, but it has gathered dust on Speaker Boehner’s desk all year long as he continues to block Democrats from bringing it to the House floor for a vote. Although Democrats were willing to compromise on the components of immigration reform, Republicans refused to even give it a chance — spitting excuses, blaming the President and repeating hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric.
And now as we face the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border, Republicans have doubled down on the blame game — blaming the President and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) for the surge in minor crossings and taking no responsibility for blocking reform that would have helped prevent or at least better equip us to deal with this crisis.
Instead of joining the President to fight for necessary resources to provide essential care to these unaccompanied children and work toward a more secure border, Republicans are using these children as political pawns to further their own agenda. We all know the only long term solution to this problem is comprehensive reform and Democrats still stand waiting to make it happen. Republicans must come to the table to help us alleviate this crisis, pass a clean funding bill, and work on comprehensive reform.
Democrats will continue fighting for working families and pushing for policies that will help put more money in your pocket, instead of helping those at the top get even further ahead. We know our country does best when everyone’s got a shot to succeed. We will continue fighting for immigration reform, because even with the President’s executive action we still need Congress to pass a long-term solution that provides a path to legal status for those living in the shadows. Our commitment to the Latino and Hispanic community remains steadfast and we as a party remain committed to fighting for the policies that work for you. The GOP needs to get on board.
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the chair of the Democratic National Committee.