Top issues Latinos want the 114th Congress to address

As the new Congress convenes Tuesday with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, Latino organizations are laying out the top issues they want the 114th Congress to address. SEE ALSO: The 114th Congress features five new Latinos VOXXI spoke to some of the country’s most influential Latino organizations and found a common message: Congress must address the issues important to Latinos. They also called for an end to the gridlock in Congress and advised Republicans, as they take the reins of Congress, to demonstrate they can “get things done.” “They have an opportunity to show that they can govern and legislate,” Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said of Republicans. Here are some the top issues Latino organizations want the 114th Congress to address: Immigration reform At the top of the list for Latino organizations is immigration reform. They applauded President Barack Obama for taking the “first step” toward fixing the nation’s broken immigration system through executive action and urged the new Congress to “finish the job” by passing a bipartisan immigration reform bill. Ben Monterroso of Mi Familia Vota said the immigration reform passed by the Senate in June 2013 provides the “framework of what immigration reform can and should be.” The United Farm Workers agreed and said Congress should move forward with the Senate bill, which the group noted held majority support in the House but was never brought up for a vote. “We hope this new Congress will bring forth the change needed to pass permanent immigration legislation that will respect today’s farm workers and all working families,” UFW said. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities urged Congress to pass an immigration reform that would create “a fair and just immigration system” and pave a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The group also said that any immigration reform bill approved by Congress should also include DREAM Act provisions that would “assure that young immigrants have access to higher education and the opportunity to become fully contributing Americans.” Meanwhile, the LIBRE Initiative called for an immigration reform bill that is employment based and market driven. The group also called for a bill that “enhances security, provides certainty to immigrants brought here as children through no fault of their own, addresses the 11 million here without documentation, and improves law enforcement.” Obama’s executive actions Some Latino organizations also said they oppose any attempt by Congress to block Obama’s executive actions on immigration, something Republicans have already pledged to do. “The GOP leadership’s current agenda of dismantling executive action on immigration, putting millions of families back on track to deportation and doubling down on the most broken aspects of immigration law is the wrong approach,” said Lorella Praeli, policy and advocacy director for United We Dream. Praeli added the United We Dream members will be working this year to educate undocumented immigrants about Obama’s executive actions as well as helping tens of thousands of them to apply for the newly created program that allows some undocumented immigrants to apply for deportation reprieve and work permits. The Dream Action Coalition plans to go a step further. Cesar Vargas, the group’s co-director, said that with the 2016 presidential elections looming, his group will remind potential candidates that support from Latinos and Dreamers is “contingent on support of the President’s immigration actions.” Vargas also said his group will work to ensure that the undocumented immigrants who were left out from Obama’s executive actions “are not forgotten.” “More specifically, we will keep reminding the president that his job is not done yet should Congress again fails to take legislative action in 2015,” Vargas said, adding that the group will also push for legislation that will allow more Dreamers to enlist in the military. The economy Also high on the list of issues that Latino organizations want Congress to address is the economy, especially an increase in the federal minimum wage. The LIBRE Initiative said it wants Congress to promote economic growth by limiting the burden of taxes, regulations, government spending and debt. In addition, the group said it urges Congress to approve tax reforms that will lead to “significant economic gains.” “This will help Latino families by allowing many more to work, and succeed, enabling them to begin to build a better future for themselves and their families,” the group said. The Latino Victory Project and other Latino organizations said raising the minimum wage would go a long way to helping Latino families as well the country’s economy. A study released last year by the AFL-CIO found that Latino workers are “much more likely to be paid lower wages.” It also found that nearly 6.8 million Latino workers would benefit if Congress approved legislation to raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Ben Monterroso of Mi Familia Vota said his group supports raising the minimum wage. “In this country, the current minimum wage doesn’t produce a salary that anyone can live with,” he added. “Even if you work two jobs, you’re still not making enough to make ends meet.” Latino education Latinos are the fastest-growing student population in the United States. But many face barriers to graduate from high school and some feel college is out of reach. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities said there are several steps Congress can take to resolve these issues, starting with meeting the educational needs of Hispanic K-12 students. This includes training teachers on language and cultural pedagogical competence. The group also called for increased funding for Hispanic-serving institutions. It noted that more than 50 percent of all Hispanic college students attend one of the nation’s 370 Hispanic serving institutions. However, these institutions receive only 67 cents on the federal dollar allocated to higher education on a per student basis. “HACU will also closely monitor federal initiatives in STEM education, international education, and veterans’ education to assure appropriate inclusion of Hispanics and Hispanic higher education,” the group added. The LIBRE Initiative also identified education as a top issue, saying, “A good education is key to the American Dream.” The group also said it hopes Congress and Obama, as they work to reauthorize education programs, will increase local authority and expand school choice. SEE ALSO: A rewind of the top political news storiesThe post Top issues Latinos want the 114th Congress to address appeared first on Voxxi.

As the new Congress convenes Tuesday with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, Latino organizations are laying out the top issues they want the 114th Congress to address.

SEE ALSO: The 114th Congress features five new Latinos

VOXXI spoke to some of the country’s most influential Latino organizations and found a common message: Congress must address the issues important to Latinos. They also called for an end to the gridlock in Congress and advised Republicans, as they take the reins of Congress, to demonstrate they can “get things done.”

“They have an opportunity to show that they can govern and legislate,” Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said of Republicans.

Here are some the top issues Latino organizations want the 114th Congress to address:

Immigration reform

Supporters of immigration reform rallied on the National Mall on April 9, 2014. (Flickr/NEA Public Relations)

At the top of the list for Latino organizations is immigration reform. They applauded President Barack Obama for taking the “first step” toward fixing the nation’s broken immigration system through executive action and urged the new Congress to “finish the job” by passing a bipartisan immigration reform bill.

Ben Monterroso of Mi Familia Vota said the immigration reform passed by the Senate in June 2013 provides the “framework of what immigration reform can and should be.” The United Farm Workers agreed and said Congress should move forward with the Senate bill, which the group noted held majority support in the House but was never brought up for a vote.

“We hope this new Congress will bring forth the change needed to pass permanent immigration legislation that will respect today’s farm workers and all working families,” UFW said.

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities urged Congress to pass an immigration reform that would create “a fair and just immigration system” and pave a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The group also said that any immigration reform bill approved by Congress should also include DREAM Act provisions that would “assure that young immigrants have access to higher education and the opportunity to become fully contributing Americans.”

Meanwhile, the LIBRE Initiative called for an immigration reform bill that is employment based and market driven. The group also called for a bill that “enhances security, provides certainty to immigrants brought here as children through no fault of their own, addresses the 11 million here without documentation, and improves law enforcement.”

Obama’s executive actions

 About 100 people gather to rally in support of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration policy in Lafayette Square across from the White House November 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama announced a plan on Thursday that would ease the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
About 100 people gathered to rally in support of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in Lafayette Square across from the White House on November 21, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Some Latino organizations also said they oppose any attempt by Congress to block Obama’s executive actions on immigration, something Republicans have already pledged to do.

“The GOP leadership’s current agenda of dismantling executive action on immigration, putting millions of families back on track to deportation and doubling down on the most broken aspects of immigration law is the wrong approach,” said Lorella Praeli, policy and advocacy director for United We Dream.

Praeli added the United We Dream members will be working this year to educate undocumented immigrants about Obama’s executive actions as well as helping tens of thousands of them to apply for the newly created program that allows some undocumented immigrants to apply for deportation reprieve and work permits.

The Dream Action Coalition plans to go a step further. Cesar Vargas, the group’s co-director, said that with the 2016 presidential elections looming, his group will remind potential candidates that support from Latinos and Dreamers is “contingent on support of the President’s immigration actions.”

Vargas also said his group will work to ensure that the undocumented immigrants who were left out from Obama’s executive actions “are not forgotten.”

“More specifically, we will keep reminding the president that his job is not done yet should Congress again fails to take legislative action in 2015,” Vargas said, adding that the group will also push for legislation that will allow more Dreamers to enlist in the military.

The economy

Fast food workers, healthcare workers and their supporters shout slogans at a rally and march to demand an increase of the minimum wage in Los Angeles on December 4, 2014. (Robyn  Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Fast food workers, healthcare workers and their supporters shout slogans at a rally and march to demand an increase of the minimum wage in Los Angeles on December 4, 2014. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Also high on the list of issues that Latino organizations want Congress to address is the economy, especially an increase in the federal minimum wage.

The LIBRE Initiative said it wants Congress to promote economic growth by limiting the burden of taxes, regulations, government spending and debt. In addition, the group said it urges Congress to approve tax reforms that will lead to “significant economic gains.”

“This will help Latino families by allowing many more to work, and succeed, enabling them to begin to build a better future for themselves and their families,” the group said.

The Latino Victory Project and other Latino organizations said raising the minimum wage would go a long way to helping Latino families as well the country’s economy.

A study released last year by the AFL-CIO found that Latino workers are “much more likely to be paid lower wages.” It also found that nearly 6.8 million Latino workers would benefit if Congress approved legislation to raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

Ben Monterroso of Mi Familia Vota said his group supports raising the minimum wage.

“In this country, the current minimum wage doesn’t produce a salary that anyone can live with,” he added. “Even if you work two jobs, you’re still not making enough to make ends meet.”

Latino education

Latino organizations listed education as one of the top issues they want the 114th Congress to address. (Shutterstock photo)
Latino organizations listed education as one of the top issues they want the 114th Congress to address. (Shutterstock photo)

Latinos are the fastest-growing student population in the United States. But many face barriers to graduate from high school and some feel college is out of reach.

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities said there are several steps Congress can take to resolve these issues, starting with meeting the educational needs of Hispanic K-12 students. This includes training teachers on language and cultural pedagogical competence.

The group also called for increased funding for Hispanic-serving institutions. It noted that more than 50 percent of all Hispanic college students attend one of the nation’s 370 Hispanic serving institutions. However, these institutions receive only 67 cents on the federal dollar allocated to higher education on a per student basis.

“HACU will also closely monitor federal initiatives in STEM education, international education, and veterans’ education to assure appropriate inclusion of Hispanics and Hispanic higher education,” the group added.

The LIBRE Initiative also identified education as a top issue, saying, “A good education is key to the American Dream.” The group also said it hopes Congress and Obama, as they work to reauthorize education programs, will increase local authority and expand school choice.

SEE ALSO: A rewind of the top political news stories

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