WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) issued the following statement in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month which ran from September 15 through October 15. His statement was included in the Congressional Record.
“I rise today in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate our Hispanic and Latino communities and their immeasurable contributions to our Nation. Hispanic and Latinos have been with our country since its very founding and have helped make America exceptional. Hispanic and Latino Americans play vital roles in our communities. They are our teachers, our heathcare heroes, our entrepreneurs, our essential workers, our public servants and elected officials, all vital to the fabric of our Nation.
“Hispanic Heritage Month started as a commemorative week that Congress established in 1968 and expanded to a full month in 1988 to recognize the critical role the Latino community has played in the civil rights movement. Celebrations start September 15, a significant date, as it is the independence date for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, while Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16, and Chile celebrates its independence on September 18.
“This month, we celebrate the nearly 61 million Latino Americans across the country and the more than 600,000 Hispanic or Latino residents in Maryland. Maryland is proudly one of the most diverse States in the Nation. We are home to people with origins in Central and South America, with sizeable populations of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans.
“America is a nation of immigrants; people from far and wide have settled in the United States, the land of opportunity. Since the Immigration Act of 1965, millions of individuals from Central and South America have immigrated to the United States for numerous reasons, including economic instability or violence in their native country.
“We take this month to highlight the importance of the Hispanic and Latino communities, including the election in 1822 of Joseph Marion Hernandez, the first Hispanic in Congress, as Florida’s Delegate. Today, according to the Congressional Research Service, there are 54 Hispanic or Latino Members—a record number—serving: 47 in the House, including two Delegates and the Resident Commissioner, and seven in the Senate.
“Though the Hispanic and Latino communities have been essential to America’s identity, from the scientific innovation to art, culture, music, food, and so much more, we must still recognize the disparities that these communities face. For the second year, we are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month during the COVID–19 pandemic. The pandemic has affected people of color at disproportionate rates in terms of economic distress and case severity. The Hispanic or Latino unemployment rate soared to 18.9 percent in February of 2020. Hispanic or Latina women took even larger losses compared to their male counterparts. The unemployment disparity is due to the overrepresentation of Hispanic or Latino workers in the food preparation or serving industry, as well as building and grounds cleaning and maintenance. These sectors suffered some of the harshest economic effects of the pandemic. Even though the unemployment rate has decreased to 6.4 percent in Hispanic and Latino communities—6.2 percent in Maryland—they still have not experienced the same economic recoveries as their White counterparts.
“For the immigrants who do not have a green card, their likelihood to have lost a job is even higher. Many say that at least one family member in their household has lost a job or wages. Families are suffering; they are worried about putting food on the table or even losing their homes. The financial toll of the last year and a half has exacerbated the prepandemic inequalities that the Hispanic or Latino communities were already facing.
“Hispanic or Latino people are also more likely face the harshest health effects of the COVID–19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic or Latino people are twice as likely to catch COVID, 2.8 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 2.3 times more likely to die compared to their White counterparts. In my own home State, Hispanic or Latino people are 14.3 percent of the case rates when they only make up 10.6 percent of our population. With the widening gaps of healthcare coverage, Hispanic or Latino families face large hospital bills for their bouts of COVID. Twenty percent of nonelderly Hispanic or Latino people are uninsured. Although the Affordable Care Act and President Biden’s expansion of the Affordable Care Act have helped many receive healthcare coverage, people of color remain less likely to have healthcare coverage.
“It is our duty in Congress to ensure that our Hispanic and Latino communities have the resources and access to healthcare they need so we can close the gap between them and their White counterparts. This comes with educating these communities on how to sign up and receive healthcare. It also comes with comprehensive immigration reform to provide an easier pathway to citizenship so people can come out of the shadows.
“Regardless of the repercussions of the pandemic, Hispanic and Latino Americans remain optimistic, filled with love and pride for their families, communities, and the United States of America. I want to take this opportunity to thank Hispanic and Latino Americans for their contributions that have made the United States the country it is today. I want to thank the hard-working Hispanic and Latino essential workers who have put their lives at risk to keep our country running during the pandemic. I want to thank the Hispanic and Latino communities who love our Nation and strive to change it for the better. Thank you for being an important part of the American story.”