By Alicia Criado, Policy Associate, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR
“We understand the defense budget strengthens us by protecting us from exterior threats and negative forces. Defense protects the exterior. Well, we secure your interior. And that’s every bit as important,” said Nilda Ruiz, President and CEO of Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), during a briefing held by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) on February 19, 2013. The briefing, titled “Impact of Sequestration & Federal Budget Decisions on Hispanic Families,” was an opportunity to help congressional staffers get up to speed on Latino priorities in the ongoing federal budget debates. Ruiz spoke in response to the proposed March 1 cuts to nondefense discretionary programs
NHLA Chair Hector Sanchez moderated the panel, which included Ellen Nissenbaum, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, Center for Budget & Policy Priorities; Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR; and Nilda Ruiz. In addition to providing staffers with a thorough overview of the federal budget landscape, Nissenbaum highlighted the important role that refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit have played in strengthening working Latino families and increasing the educational achievement of their children. Rodriguez reminded staffers that it is wrong to ask struggling Latino families to sacrifice health care, education, job prospects, and their children’s well-being, since they are already among those who have been hit hardest by the Great Recession. He emphasized that NCLR will continue to ensure that the Latino voice is heard in Congress in order to prevent any more pain on workers and their families, who have already sacrificed so much.
APM, an NCLR Affiliate, is one of the many community-based organizations helping to build better futures for Latino families. Ruiz helped put a face on the impact of the upcoming budget cuts by sharing a story of one of their clients, Norma Morales. Norma has benefited greatly from APM’s services, such as housing counseling and job training, and has gone from being homeless to being a homeowner. Today she works for the president of Philadelphia’s City Council. Ruiz underscored her visit to Capitol Hill and the need to stop the March 1 cuts because “APM and organizations like us form the ‘interior defense systems’ that keep this country strong, safe, and progressing in a universally beneficial way.”