Our Latino and immigrant communities will be tuning in on February 7 to catch this year’s important State of the Union Address. In this third year of President Biden’s administration, we point to important changes we’re calling for that have the potential to improve the lives of Hispanics and all Americans.
We are thankful for President Biden’s leadership to ensure our country can become more resilient and equitable after the health and economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. To build on this progress, here are five priority areas we’d like to hear about from the president in this Tuesday’s State of the Union Address:
1. Support the economic empowerment and housing needs of Latinos
In recent years, our nation experienced significant economic challenges that have hit Latinos particularly hard. Over the course of the pandemic Latinos—compared to their white counterparts—were more likely to lose a job, take a pay cut, or suffer from food and housing insecurity, even as they were overrepresented in the essential occupations that kept our country moving forward. While the nation has made substantial economic progress since the worst days of the pandemic, today’s higher prices for housing, food, gas, and other basic necessities are harming Latinos and communities of color the most.
We appreciate the White House’s support for basic consumer protections against unreasonable fines and fees, and call for continued and growing efforts on programs that promote economic growth and opportunities for Latino workers, business owners, and families. This includes continuing to push for an expansion of the Child Tax Credit which lifted 1.2 million Latino children out of poverty in 2021. In addition, we call for the Treasury to modernize the tax identification requirements for ITIN-holders and applicants and for Congress to include ITIN-holding children in the tax credit program.
2. Expand access to health coverage, immunizations, and nutrition initiatives
Basic health coverage and care is a necessity of life for families and individuals. Yet racial disparities in health coverage and care persist, and Latinos have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group. This gap makes it much more difficult for Latinos to receive the basic medical care that they need, and hinders our ability as a nation to combat future pandemics. We need investments in this area to advance the health of our communities.
As the Public Health Emergency ends in May, we face a particular threat to access to coverage and care for millions of Latino children and families. We need government action now to prevent states from kicking people out of Medicaid coverage for paperwork reasons even when those people remain eligible for the program. Inaction by states and the federal government is creating a risk to coverage for 4.6 million Latinos, 2.2 million African Americans, and nearly a million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
3. Strengthen the educational pipeline for Latino students
By 2030, one in three students in the U.S. will be Latino. Although Latino children are the largest and youngest group of color, they are more likely to lack sufficient academic support resources and key learning resources like high-speed internet, and to face language barriers. School closures during the pandemic also disrupted learning for millions of Latino students at all levels, exacerbating these disparities. Our country needs to increase investments from early childhood education through college to ensure all students can recover and succeed.
Last summer, we celebrated President Biden’s legal and appropriate student debt cancellation plan, which would clear the debt of one-third of Latinos. While the plan is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, regardless of the outcome, more policies will be needed to reduce crippling debt levels for students, as these deep expenses hamper economic mobility and the contributions of Latino students, leading to long-term disparities in wealth accumulation and economic security.
- Our recommendations for investments for English Learners
- We join amicus brief in support of student debt relief program
4. Safeguard and facilitate the full integration of our immigrant community
Congress once again failed to provide a pathway to citizenship or meaningful protections from deportation for our undocumented students and families, colleagues, and neighbors, even after this community played an outsized role in getting our country back on track during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. Immigrants, both undocumented and those with legal status, increase our labor force at a time of great need, fuel our productivity, and advance our competitive edge. It’s clear that immigrants are key to our future prosperity, and our nation’s policies and federal budget should reflect that reality.
Once again, immigrants and immigration are in the crosshairs of extremists in Congress and are being scapegoated for perceived national ills and used as a political weapon to mislead and divide Americans. We urge President Biden to not take the bait: the challenges we face on the border and with asylum seekers are the result of decades of congressional inaction.
We urge the president to protect access to asylum for those seeking refuge in the U.S. and—for long-term immigrants—to expand pathways to legal status under current immigration laws and reduce processing backlogs and other access barriers to securing immigration benefits. We also applaud the creation of the Task Force for New Americans and call for it be housed within the White House to ensure it has the reach needed to spur the agencies to do all they can to support immigrants’ full inclusion in the social, cultural, and economic fabric of our nation.
5. Protect our hard-earned civil rights
Structural racism harms the economic and educational well-being and health of Latinos. At the same time, women’s access to reproductive health continues to be attacked in numerous states. The federal government has an obligation to protect the civil and reproductive rights that generations before us fought so hard to achieve. These protections are necessary for the full inclusion of the Hispanic community into our nation’s social fabric.