DemPlatform Hearing featuring NHLA Chair Hector Sanchez
Click the image below to watch Hector Sanchez speak before the DNC Platform Committee or click here to view his remarks.
Click the image below to watch Hector Sanchez speak before the DNC Platform Committee or click here to view his remarks.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda launched a nonpartisan campaign in the fall of 2015 to engage presidential candidates and educate them about the depth and breadth of policy issues that are important to Latinos.The Latino community is growing rapidly in the United States, both in population and in our contribution to the economic, social and cultural life of the nation. And yet, some presidential candidates have not paid proportional attention to Latinos. It is critical for candidates to understand the needs of the Latino population because our priorities are, by definition, the priorities of the United States as a whole. America cannot succeed unless Latinos also succeed.
The NHLA launched its Presidential Engagement Campaign by inviting all candidates to meet with its coalition members -- the leaders of the nation’s 40 pre-eminent Latino nonpartisan advocacy organizations. Each campaign was sent a letter of invitation on September 8, 2015 and the NHLA received responses from three candidates. On October 5, 2015 our coalition had a conference call with Secretary Hillary Clinton. On October 7, 2015, we met with Governor Martin O’Malley. On October 8, 2015, we met with Senator Bernie Sanders during our NHLA board meeting.
On October 29, 2015, the NHLA sent a second letter inviting the rest of the presidential candidates to meet but they went unanswered. On February 3, 2016, the NHLA sent a third letter inviting the remaining presidential candidates to meet with the coalition. Not a single Republican has responded to the invitation after three invitations.
On February 25th, the NHLA released its quadrennial Hispanic Public Policy Agenda, along with a presidential candidate questionnaire, inviting each candidate to submit their responses by March 25. The questionnaire asked for candidate’s proposals regarding 20 of the most pressing issues facing the Latino community in the areas of economic opportunity, labor, immigration, education, civil rights, government accountability, health, environment, and energy. The goal of the candidate questionnaire is to provide the Latino community with an additional resource to learn about the substantive positions of those seeking our nation’s highest office.
The NHLA will publicly share the questionnaire responses received from the candidates thus far, and will still accept responses from those who missed the deadline, culminating the release of a nonpartisan voter guide that shares the candidates’ responses without editorial comment so that Latino voters can use it as one of many resources in educating themselves about the presidential candidates.
The NHLA will continue its engagement with the presidential candidates and the platform committees of the two major political parties during the national party conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia this July with public presentations and discussions of the 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda.
Following the major parties’ conventions, the NHLA will request meetings with the Democratic and Republican nominees to discuss the priorities of the Latino community in advance of the general election.
NHLA does not endorse or oppose candidates for public office. When NHLA publishes the answers to this questionnaire, we will remind readers that candidates’ fitness for office should be judged on a variety of qualifications that go beyond their responses to the questions below.
Please provide your responses in 250 words or less to each question below.
ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AND LABOR
1. FEDERAL BUDGET: Since 2011, federal efforts to reduce the deficit have relied more on cuts to domestic discretionary programs rather than raising revenue. The 2011 Budget Control Act set strict caps on discretionary funding through across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. While a partial lifting of sequestration was included in the 2013 and 2015 Bipartisan Budget Acts, investments in non-defense domestic discretionary programs have been cut dramatically in recent years.
o In your investment agenda for the federal budget, what domestic programs would you prioritize for increased or decreased funding?
2. ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT: Latinos are overrepresented in low-wage occupations and have lower levels of household wealth than other racial and ethnic groups. Because Latinos are overrepresented in low-wage jobs, the effect of wage stagnation on their sense of economic well-being is particularly profound, with 67 percent of Latinos reporting in a recent poll that they are not earning enough to meet their basic expenses. Forty-two percent of all Latinos earn poverty-level wages despite having the highest rate of labor force participation among all racial and ethnic groups.
o What tax and wage policies would you pursue to help working families earn a living that supports their needs?
3. WORKING CONDITIONS: Many Latino workers experience violations of minimum wage, overtime pay and other labor protections. In many cases the workers are laboring for a company that denies it is an "employer" of such workers; it contends that a staffing agency or labor contractor is the sole "employer" or misclassifies the workers themselves as "independent contractors." Such companies deny responsibility under labor laws while often failing to pay the labor contractor or intermediary enough to ensure compliance with the law.
o What policies and employment-law enforcement approaches do you support to reduce exploitation of workers subjected to abuses through such economic arrangements?
4. PUERTO RICO’S FINANCIAL CRISIS: The Puerto Rican government faces a $72 billion debt that it cannot pay and a $30 billion shortfall in public pension funds. To deal with the deficit, the government has cut services and raised taxes. Citizens are feeling the strain, with a 12.5 percent unemployment rate and a 41 percent poverty rate. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have moved to the mainland U.S. in search of employment during the current nine-year recession.
o What efforts do you support to address the immediate crisis in Puerto Rico, and what steps would you take to promote medium and long term economic development on the island and help it prevent another such financial crisis?
5. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION: The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 was signed into law last year, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was first enacted in 1965 as a civil rights bill written to ensure equal access to a quality education. Within those fifty years, the Latino community has grown from roughly three percent of the nation’s population, to 17 percent today, and 25 percent of the public school student population.
o How would you hold states and school districts accountable to ensure that Latino students are receiving a quality and equitable education?
6. HIGHER EDUCATION: For the first time, Latino enrollment of 18-24 year olds in college surpassed that of White students in 2012, at 49 percent and 47 percent respectively. However, Latino college completion rates lag far behind those of other groups, with less than a third of Latinos graduating from four-year institutions on time.
o What policies do you propose to improve college retention and completion rates among Latinos?
7. DETENTION FACILITIES: Since 2003, the number of immigration detention beds increased by 86 percent from 18,000 to a congressionally mandated bed quota of 33,400. According to DHS data the majority of immigrants detained had no criminal record. Concurrently, for-profit prison companies have increased their share of operating ICE immigration detention beds, from 49 percent in 2009 to 60 percent today.
o What changes do you propose to the immigration detention system?
8. ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION: On June 15, 2012, the Obama administration announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program to protect immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and meet other specific requirements against deportation and in November 2014, the Administration announced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA).
o How do you intend to use presidential prosecutorial discretion until Congress enacts comprehensive immigration reform, including continuing initiatives like DACA and DAPA?
9. CENTRAL AMERICAN REFUGEES: Immigration from Latin America has been on a decreasing trend in recent years. One notable exception is the case of Central American adults and children who have been fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
o What is your position on addressing those children who have arrived in the U.S. from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala?
10. IMMIGRATION REFORM: The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform measure in 2013 that included a pathway to legal status and citizenship to the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, the creation of more legal opportunities for future immigrants to come into the country, and shortened pathways to citizenship for DREAM students and agricultural workers.
o What policies do you propose to reform the immigration system?
11. APPOINTMENTS: The NHLA launched the Latino Appointments Program in 2014 to identify and advocate for the appointment of qualified Latino candidates at all levels in the president’s administration and on federal commissions and boards. There is currently a record number of four Latinos serving in the president’s cabinet, leading the U.S. Departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and the Small Business Administration.
o What would you do as president to meet or exceed the current level of Hispanic representation in presidentially-appointed positions?
12. CIVIL SERVICE: Hispanics are the most underrepresented ethnic or racial group in the federal workforce. In 2014, Hispanics represented about 16.1 percent of the civilian labor force but only 8.4 percent of the Federal Government’s workforce. Hispanic representation in the career Senior Executive Service (SES) is 4.4 percent.
o What steps would you take to increase Hispanic representation in the federal workforce, including the Senior Executive Service?
13. VOTING RIGHTS: As a fast-growing voting group, Latinos face barriers at local and state level to their electoral participation. The 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder eliminated a critical tool -- preclearance -- to prevent attempts to stem the growth in Latino electoral power by restricting access to the ballot.
o What measures, including steps in response to Shelby County, such as a new preclearance formula for the Voting Rights Act, would you propose and support to protect the growing Latino electorate from disenfranchisement?
14. CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The United States continues to have the highest proportion of prisoners per capita of any country in the world. Latinos are disproportionately subject to more frequent stops by law
enforcement, higher incidences of police brutality, the highest rates of pre-trial detention and bail amounts, and greater obstacles to post-incarceration re-entry.
o What policies will you advance to ensure criminal justice, policing and drug policy reform?
15. CIVIL RIGHTS AND THE JUDICIARY: Hate crimes, racial profiling, employment discrimination, and other forms of discrimination continue to take place far too often. Historically, the courts have played an important role in checking abuses against the civil rights of vulnerable populations.
o What factors will you consider when making judicial nominations?
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY
16. ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: Half of all U.S. Latinos live in the country’s most polluted cities, and pesticides affect Latinos who are agricultural workers in rural areas of the nation. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are more prevalent in Latinos living in inner cities near carbon-emitting plants, truck routes, and factories. Studies have shown that exposure to toxic chemicals leads to infertility, miscarriage, low birth weight, fetal malformation, and retarded fetal growth.
o What policies will you support to address pollution and toxins that impact Latinos’ health?
17. CLIMATE CHANGE: Latinos are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their economic standing.
o What steps do you intend to take to address climate change?
18. AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: As you know, the Affordable Care Act has provided over 2.6 million previously uninsured Latinos with affordable health insurance. However, millions of Latinos remain locked out of the benefits of the ACA due to their immigration status, as the Administration’s regulations prohibit DACA-eligible youth from accessing the Health Insurance Marketplace and the law bars undocumented immigrants from going onto the Health Insurance Marketplaces to purchase unsubsidized health insurance with their own money.
o What steps will you take, including elimination of these exclusions, to ensure equal access to health care?
19. LATINA HEALTH: Latinas are more likely to be low-income, of reproductive age, and to experience unintended pregnancy. Additionally, Latinas are among the most likely to suffer and die of cervical cancer, an almost entirely preventable and highly treatable disease, for the simple reason that Latinas lack access to preventive care.
o What will you do to ensure that all Latinas, regardless of zip code, immigration status, income level, have access to health care including reproductive health care?
20. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly one-third of U.S. women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. In the No MAS study of 800 Latinas and Latinos nationwide, 56% reported knowing a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence is associated with an array of short-term and long-term health consequences.
o What steps will you take to address domestic violence, particularly as it impacts Latinas, regardless of immigration status and including those with limited English proficiency?