IInn tthhee 2200066 eelleeccttiioonn,, Reeppuubblliiccaannss lloosstt
llarge numbers off Hiispaniic votes
as a result of the “talk tough and crack down” strategy.
( 17 percent), Florida ( 13. 6 percent), Colorado ( 12. 3 percent), Nevada ( 12. 2 percent), New York ( 11. 4 percent),
and New Jersey ( 10 percent). 22
High on the agenda of the new U.S. administration will be finding a way to revive the economy
and distribute its gains equitably. In today’s political atmosphere, changing the status quo has an
attractive appeal to voters of both parties. That’s a
good reason why policies promoting integration of
the nation’s new immigrant population will have a
chance at gaining widespread support.
One of the key areas is the relationship between
economic productivity and education, directly
linked to the challenge of integrating Hispanics in
U.S. society. The candidates and the future administration should consider the need to increase funding
for English as a Second Language (ESL) programs for
both children and adults, to provide more resources for schools that face overcrowding and to train
teachers in cultural awareness and special needs of
immigrant children and parents. Health care reform
is also important as it relates to the integration challenge. Providing preventive care, health education
and access to insurance for vulnerable groups, such
as Hispanic immigrants, will help decrease the cost
of emergency services and reduce the burden the
uninsured place on other health care services.
Putting these reforms high on the agenda will
change the status quo. Currently, the federal government spends less than $4 billion on immigrant integration programs—most of them related to refugees.
As the Migration Policy Institute has pointed out,
these are fragmented policies and lack resources. 23
Although nonprofit groups, religious organizations,
unions, national Hispanic associations, and even
businesses are addressing these issues, their resources and reach are not enough. Ultimately, these are
the government’s responsibilities.
Part of the new agenda should be the development of public-private partnerships, alliances with
community groups and policies developed jointly
with state and local governments to respond to the
specific context and needs of each community. 24
The federal government should address the lack of
infrastructure in education and health by allocating
resources to states on a need basis. It should develop and fund programs through collaboration with
the private sector and establish requirements such
as employer responsibility in providing English language instruction at the workplace. 25
Finally, the federal government must provide
clear, general guidelines for effective integration
policies drawing from effective programs in various states and cities. In this regard, existing frameworks—such as the Task Force on New Immigrants,
established in 2006 as part of the Department of
Homeland Security to promote effective policies,
legislation and partnerships related to immigrant
integration—can be developed and expanded with
adequate resources and infrastructure.
Issues of integration are central to building community and maximizing the gains from a diverse
and multicultural society. And in this capacity, they
are key to maintaining productivity levels and creating economic opportunities. Hispanics are and will
remain a growing force in the country’s political and
economic future. Regardless of the current rhetoric
we cannot deny this basic fact.
It is time to address this reality in the public
discourse and realize that the political, social and
economic challenges that the U.S. faces cannot be
resolved as long as the marginalization and exclusion of the country’s fastest growing minority persists.