Congressman Cohen Commemorates Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15, 2008
Press Release

“Hispanic values – faith, family, love of country – are American values.  The Hispanic dream – the hope of a better future – is the American Dream.  During Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the Hispanic community and pay tribute to the extraordinary contributions that Hispanics make to America all year long.

“The 45.5 million Hispanics make up the fastest growing group in our country. Their hard work, deep faith and closely-knit families have made America a better and stronger country.  Hispanic contributions to American popular culture are plainly evident in music, film, food, and other areas.  Hispanic purchasing power is more than $600 billion and Hispanics are opening businesses at a rate that is three times as fast as the national average.  Economically, culturally, and politically, Latinos are a vital part of our nation.

“Unfortunately, many Hispanic families have not fared well over the last several years – with a struggling economy.  Indeed, since 2000, the median household income of Hispanics has fallen by $1,256, the number of uninsured Hispanics has grown by 3 million, and the number of Hispanics living below the poverty level has grown by 2.1 million.  Furthermore, unemployment among Hispanics has skyrocketed in recent months – jumping from 5.4% in August 2007 to 8.0% in August 2008.”

“The Democratic-led 110th Congress has been fighting for a new direction in economic policy – aimed at restoring broad-based growth, reducing the cost of energy, college and health care, improving retirement security, and increasing prosperity for all Americans.

“The 110th Congress has been successful in getting certain key initiatives enacted but is also aware that much more needs to be done to revitalize our economy and renew the American dream for millions of America’s working families, including Hispanic families.

“In January, the Congress worked quickly in a bipartisan way and enacted Recovery Rebates that went out to 130 million American households this spring and summer to help try to jumpstart the economy.  This summer, in order to address the subprime mortgage crisis, the Congress enacted the most sweeping housing bill in a generation – designed to prevent 400,000 subprime foreclosures, crack down on predatory lending, and expand affordable mortgage opportunities for working families. 

“The Congress has also enacted a three-step increase in the minimum wage, benefiting 2.3 million Hispanics  over the next several years – the first increase in a decade.  In addition, it has extended unemployment benefits – at a time when the Hispanic unemployment rate stands at 8.0%.  The Congress has also enacted an Innovation Agenda, which will help restore our ability to compete in the global economy and create 21st century good-paying jobs.

“To make college more affordable, the Congress has enacted the single largest investment in college financial assistance since the 1944 GI Bill, including cutting the interest rate on student loans in half and increasing the size of Pell Grants to help millions of Hispanics have the opportunity for a better education.  It has also enacted another bill that gives colleges incentives to rein in tuition increases and cracks down on scandals in the student loan industry.

“With a New Direction, the Congress has made our children a priority – including America’s 15 million Hispanic children.  For example, Congress has enacted a bill to strengthen the successful Head Start childhood education program to make sure our children are ready for school.  In addition, it has enacted a key bill to make America’s children safer – banning the import of unsafe toys from China and other countries.  We have also twice passed a key bill that would have provided health care coverage for 10 million children, including millions of Hispanic children; however, unfortunately, the President has vetoed it both times. 

“Finally, this Congress has enacted major bills to improve the lives of America’s veterans – including the 1.1 million veterans who are Hispanic.  These bills include the 21st Century GI Bill that provides a free four-year college education to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (providing these veterans the educational benefits our country provided to World War II veterans) and a bill providing the largest increase in funding for veterans’ health care in the 77-year history of the Veterans’ Administration.

“Celebrating the Hispanic community for one month a year is not enough.  All Latinos deserve a real opportunity to achieve the American Dream, whether they have been here for generations or just arrived to our shores.  That’s why I am proud to partner with my colleagues to promote a New Direction agenda that builds opportunity for all American families.”

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Marilyn Dillihay, Press Secretary, 202-225-3265
Charlie Gerber, Communications Assistant, 202-225-3265