Rep. Judy Chu Commemorates Hispanic Heritage Month
September 15, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA32, issued the following statement in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15 every year:
“The rich heritage of our Hispanic citizens has enriched the fabric of our culture since before there was a United States of America. From the old Spanish forts of Florida and the historic Missions of California, to today’s vibrant communities of East Los Angeles in my own District, Latino culture has been, and continues to be, an important part of our national identity.
“Our diversity is the key to our strength, and America would not be the great nation that she is without the passion, ingenuity, and perseverance of the millions of immigrants from Latin America and beyond, who have come to our shores looking for a better life.
“The values held dear by our Hispanic communities, those of hard work, strength of character, commitment to family and country, are also the quintessential American values. And today, the entrepreneurial spirit of our 47.5 million Hispanic Americans is an integral component of our economic recovery.
“So I ask my colleagues in Congress to join me today as we recognize the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, and to stand proudly with me in acknowledgement that the Hispanic Dream and the American Dream are one in the same.”
Key Statistics on Hispanic Heritage Month, Economic Recovery
- Many Latin American countries celebrate their dates of independence during Hispanic Heritage Month, including Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica y Chile.
- Economically, culturally, and politically, Latinos are a vital part of our nation. Hispanics are patriotic, hard-working, deeply religious, family-oriented, and entrepreneurial (Hispanic business start-ups are three times higher than the national average). Hispanic purchasing power now exceeds more than $600 billion. And over several generations, American life has been enriched by Hispanic contributions in business, education, government, and the arts.
- Despite the growth and progress of our Hispanic community, unfortunately, many Hispanic families have not fared well economically over the last several years. During the eight years of the Bush Administration, Hispanic median household income fell by $3,557, 2.8 million more Hispanics joined the ranks of the uninsured, and 3.2 million more Hispanics fell below the poverty level.
- In February, President Obama and the Democratic-led Congress took aggressive actionto combat the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression by enacting a $787 billion Recovery Act, which is a two-year program to jumpstart the economy, create and save 3.5 million jobs, provide 95 percent of American workers a tax cut, and begin to rebuild America’s road, rail, and water infrastructure. The Recovery Act includes key aid for workers most hurt by the recession – including extending and improving unemployment benefits, increasing food stamps, and expanding job training programs. The effects of the Recovery Act are beginning to be felt.
- Earlier this year, the 111th Congress also extended cost-effective health coverage to 4 million more children whose parents can’t afford their own health insurance, but earn too high an income to qualify for Medicaid, and preserved coverage for 7 million children already enrolled. With 20 percent of Hispanic children uninsured, this legislation is especially important for Hispanic families.
- In addition, the 111th Congress is helping families – including tens of thousands of Hispanic families -- save their homes from foreclosure, building on President Obama’s initiative to stem the foreclosure crisis, with significant incentives to lenders, servicers and homeowners to modify loans. During the subprime mortgage boom, Hispanic homebuyers were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely than whites to receive a high-cost home loan.
- In 2007, the new Democratic-led Congress made college affordability a top priority. In September 2007, Congress enacted the single largest investment in college financial assistance since the 1944 GI Bill, including cutting student loan interest rates in half and increasing the size of Pell Grants -- helping 1.8 million Hispanic college students with opportunities for a better education. This week, the House will take up another historic higher education bill, which invests additional billions over the next 10 years – at no cost to the taxpayer, by using savings achieved by switching to the cheaper Direct Student Loan program – to make college more affordable, including keeping interest rates low on student loans and increasing the maximum Pell Grant from $5,350 in 2009 to $6,900 in 2019.
- The Democratic-led Congress has also made our children a priority – including America’s 15 million Hispanic children. For example, the 110th Congress enacted a bill to strengthen the successful Head Start childhood education program to make sure our children are ready for school. In addition, Congress enacted a key bill to make America’s children safer – banning the import of unsafe toys from China and other countries.
- Finally, the Democratic-led Congress has enacted major legislation to improve the lives of America’s veterans – including 1.1 million Hispanic veterans. The 21st Century GI Bill provides a free four-year college education to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (the same educational benefits provided to our World War II veterans). Congress also provided the largest increase in funding for veterans’ health care in the 77-year history of the Veterans’ Administration.