UnidosUS and Affiliates Hear from the Biden-Harris Administration in White House Briefing

Every year, the UnidosUS Changemakers Summit brings together hundreds of advocates representing our Affiliates from across the country to strategize, connect and learn from each other. Many attendees had the chance to put their skills into practice and conduct meetings with government officials to directly advocate for the needs and priorities of their communities. On March 6, 2024, Affiliate leaders and UnidosUS staff and leadership attended a briefing held by the White House Office of Public Engagement for UnidosUS Affiliate Network leadership in the Old Executive Office Building. 

We heard from several representatives of the administration regarding a range of topics, including education, health, civil rights, immigration, affordable housing and more. 


Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona set the tone with a fervent commitment to rectifying educational disparities affecting Latino students and transforming the higher education system. Highlighting concrete actions taken by the administration, he outlined various initiatives to provide much-needed student loan debt relief, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and targeting relief for Pell Grant Recipients, which was estimated to cut Latino student loan debt in half. Cardona emphasized that these reforms open doors to economic mobility for many, allowing people to buy homes and put their children through college as a result. Furthermore, he addressed the difficulties with the new FAFSA and committed to updating and fixing the system, which will ultimately benefit hundreds of thousands of students, including Latinos. 


Addressing healthcare access, speakers echoed Secretary Xavier Becerra’s sentiment that healthcare stands at the forefront of civil rights issues. Melanie Fontes Rainer, Director of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, underscored the department’s ongoing efforts to combat discriminatory practices in healthcare and ensure equitable access to care for Hispanic and immigrant communities. Notably, she highlighted initiatives to protect reproductive privacy and preclude law enforcement from targeting individuals based on medical information. She admits “we’ve made a lot of progress, but not enough,” pointing to the fact that 1 in 4 marketplace insurance enrollees are Latino.  


The discussion on civil rights, moderated by Amber Greene, Special Assistant to the President for Racial and Economic Justice, shed light on the administration’s proactive approach for addressing injustice. Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, cited a historic influx of complaints last year and emphasized the department’s commitment to addressing systemic discrimination in education through robust regulation and enforcement systems. Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice, underscored the department’s initiatives to combat hate crimes, ensure language access in electoral processes, and hold financial institutions accountable for discriminatory lending practices, among other initiatives to ensure that Latinos are widely protected. 

On immigration, Tom Perez, Director of the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, reaffirmed the administration’s support of DACA recipients, stating: “We want to help the DREAMers and the long term undocumented. 1.5 million people have been here more than 10 years, living in the shadows.” 


Responding to concerns about appraisal disparities hindering Latino homeownership, Catherine Lhamon highlighted cross-agency efforts to address the issue through initiatives like the Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE), which works to root out racial and ethnic bias in home valuations. Moreover, speakers acknowledged ongoing challenges faced by Latino homebuyers, including predatory lending practices, and pledged to explore further avenues for intervention and support. Neera Tanden, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, maintained the administration’s commitment to take additional steps to address the rent burden that so many families are facing. 

The Power of the Affiliate Network 

Each speaker closed with a call to action for the leaders in attendance. 

Kristen Clarke remarked: Reclaim you narrative. You should shine a light on existing barriers and problems that we’re up against and why we need enforcement of civil rights laws and DEI. Know that we’re here to partner with you and please sound the alarm when there’s a problem you’re facing.” 

As UnidosUS Affiliates departed the briefing, they carried with them a renewed sense of purpose and determination to leverage the resources and insights gleaned to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for all Latino communities across the nation. Together with the administration, they remain steadfast in their commitment to building a more inclusive and prosperous future for generations to come. 

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