The wellbeing of Hispanics in America is inextricably tied to the nation’s overall success.
This message was heard loud and clear throughout the day on Saturday, November 12th at the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over 200 community grassroots and institutional leaders gathered to voice their hopes around addressing the most pressing issues affecting New Mexicans, which included educational improvement, quality health care access, job growth and economic development, and comprehensive immigration reform.
This was not your average federal government meeting. Over a dozen White House Administration officials made themselves available to engage and listen to participants in dynamic community-led open space discussions. After a morning briefing by the federal officials, the microphone was handed over to participants as they proposed over 20 sessions on the topics most important to the people of New Mexico. From early childhood education to land grants-to the federal workforce, all topics were on the table as White House officials listened and offered resources around the issues.
The gathering resulted in stronger relationships between New Mexicans and federal officials. There was a spirit of true collaboration and an understanding that it will take local and national leadership to rebuild the economy, reform public education, and fix our current immigration system.
During an open-space discussion, White House officials discussed with participants the importance of President Obama’s American Jobs Act and how it can lead us towards recovery from the current economic crisis. As part of the plan, the President is proposing to invest $35 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers, while supporting the hiring of tens of thousands more and keeping police and firefighters on the job. These funds would help states and localities avoid and reverse layoffs now, and will provide over $200 million in funds to New Mexico to support up to 3,100 educator and first responder jobs.
New Mexico understands the urgency of ensuring that our Hispanic communities have the opportunity to receive a quality education and participate in America’s labor force. Our current challenges and contributions in New Mexico are a microcosm of the rapidly growing population in the U.S. Nationally, Hispanic families will account for 65% of the nation’s population growth between 2010 and 2050 and are currently 16% of the population. Hispanics in New Mexico already account for 46% of the population.
Participants at the Summit were energized and hopeful, sending a clear message that New Mexico is ready to work together to strengthen our country.
Adrián Pedroza is the Executive Director of the Partnership for Community Action and member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.