“Now more than ever, Congress must use its collective voice to affirm Hispanic Americans’ rightful place in this nation”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from September 15 to October 15.
“This month, I join the nation in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and the innumerable contributions of the Hispanic American community.
“There is much to celebrate: though they comprise 18 percent of the U.S. population, by some estimates, Latino-owned businesses are responsible for approximately 86 percent of this country’s small business growth. What’s more, their economic influence is unrivaled by any other demographic since the baby boomers, representing a $1.5 trillion segment of the consumer market. And perhaps most notably, they play an increasingly important role in our democracy, with a record 27 million Latinos eligible to vote in last year’s election.
“It has never been clearer that Hispanic Americans represent an impressive cultural and economic force. Ultimately, however, their value to this country is not in their statistics. It’s in their character.
“A love for family, a commitment to community, and an unparalleled penchant for hard work are the tenants of Hispanic heritage. They are also the building blocks of America. This is no coincidence: Hispanic Americans helped build this nation. They are an irreplaceable thread in the fabric of American society. With their knack for innovation, with their fearless pursuit of better lives, and sometimes, with their bare hands, they have shaped this country from the ground up. And we are all the better for it.
“While we use this month to reflect on their dignity and importance to this country, this year, in particular, the Hispanic American community is best-served through actions – not words.
“Congress must pass the DREAM Act. President Trump’s order to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has shaken the Hispanic American community – and most Americans – to their core. DREAMers were brought to this country as children, with no decision in the matter. More importantly, they are American in every way save immigration status: they have lived, played, worshipped and gone to school alongside our children most of their lives. They are our children’s classmates and neighborhood friends. They are the college students you see studying outside your local library. They are the quarterback on your child’s high school football team. They are the 18-year-old service worker at your favorite restaurant, studiously saving up for next semester’s tuition.
“DREAMers were raised here, and they know no other home except the United States of America. If Congress does not act to protect them, the President’s actions will force many of them out of work, into hiding and into poverty. None of which will make America stronger.
“What will make America stronger are the DREAMers themselves. Their spirit, character and will to overcome represents the best of this country. We should be proud to call them our own.
“Voting rights. Access to quality, affordable health care. Higher education. Tax reform. These are also issues critically important to Hispanic Americans – because they are the issues important to the country. And there is no breathing room between the two. Our national interests are their personal interests, so their interests must also be ours.
“Americans are not a monolith. We do not all look the same, worship the same, or speak the same language. We are united by far more profound things: a love for the freedoms this country affords us; respect for the power and peace we derive from our diverse communities; and an unshakable belief in every person’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“What makes us Americans is our moral fiber and our shared sense of love for the United States. Any other litmus test is a discriminatory one. Yet every day, and sometimes at the hands of our own government, Hispanic Americans are tested and questioned, profiled and met with suspicion, out of sheer ignorance and baseless prejudice.
“Still, they march on. They meet the challenges of systemic discrimination with grace, grit and courage. Indeed, the Hispanic American community often reflects the best of America, even when America offers less than its best in return.
“Now more than ever, Hispanic Heritage Month must be about standing up and declaring support for Hispanic Americans. Now more than ever, Congress must use its collective voice to magnify theirs, to affirm Hispanic Americans’ rightful place in this nation, and to proclaim a commitment to representing their interests right here, in this Chamber.
“We must begin fulfilling that commitment by immediately passing the DREAM Act. But our commitment must extend further. We must support more equal representation of Hispanic Americans in our society, including in Congress. We must address the health care disparities that disproportionally affect the Hispanic community – an issue that begs Congress to work together toward more universal, affordable coverage. We must acknowledge the unique difficulties Hispanic American students face in affording college educations.
“And, finally, we must stand firm against the tidal wave of bigoted rhetoric that has flooded the national dialogue in recent months. Whenever and wherever Hispanic Americans are degraded, belittled or oppressed, basic morality demands that we speak up and speak out.
“Tolerance and respect, like a muscle, require effort and exercise. We must not allow those values to atrophy on our watch.
“Inclusion and diversity are American virtues and proud features of Hispanic heritage alike; we must now, and always, be their steward.”