Salt Lake City, Utah– Health and education disparities and immigration reform continue to be challenges for the Latino community. At today’s LULAC National Partnership Luncheon, featured speakers addressed these issues.
The luncheon included United States Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy; Leon Rodriguez, director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and John King, senior advisor delegated duties of deputy secretary, US Department of Education.
For more than five years, the agency of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been an important component of the annual LULAC convention. Leon Rodriguez of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services put a face to the green card.
“Every single immigration file is the story of some family’s hopes and dreams. And in many cases, the story of some family’s sufferings. This choice to become Americans is a family choice of pursuing liberty. There are nine million people who are legal permanent residents, eligible to be citizens. They are fully established in our society. Civic empowerment comes with the right to vote.”
Talking about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for youth age 16-24, Rodriguez said, “While we wait for the court process to sort itself out, the initial DACA program is still fully in effect. More importantly, every year...90,000 young people age into the DACA program. The long term goal is ... to have comprehensive immigration reform. Anybody that is telling the truth, knows that these individuals are here to stay.”
John King acknowledged that after 25 years of the White House’s initiative of educational advancements for Hispanics, there are still challenges.
“For the first time, we see a closing in the achievement gap. We are seeing ever increasing numbers of Latinos succeeding in college. And, yet, despite 25 years of progress, we have much left to achieve. There are too many communities where our students of color don’t get the same quality of education. How we treat education is an indicator of how we are as a country; How we move forward as a country. We know there are huge returns on investment.”
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, the son of immigrants addressed the group in Spanish before he spoke about his immigrant family growing up in Miami.
“My father grew up in a small farming village in India. My parents overcame great financial barriers to come to the United States. They believed that America was a place where you were not limited by the color of your skin. That faith in the American Dream is often tested. We (immigrants) are the force that makes America reinvent ourselves time after time. We are a nation of dreamers and doers.”
Dr. Murthy, like King, acknowledged challenges to overcome.
“As much progress as we have made, we have alarming rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Obesity and many of the leading causes of death disproportionally affect Latinos and other minorities. This disparity is even greater among women. We must build a culture of prevention. We have to ensure that the benefit of treatment and prevention are available to all people in America. We can create a healthier and more secure future for the next generation of global citizens.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit www.LULAC.org.
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