may 2011

NHCSL Members Celebrate CHCI’s Hispanic Heritage Week

Highlighted by an address from President Obama and accompanied by the First Lady, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Awards Gala on September 14th culminated the Hispanic Heritage Week events including the Public Policy Conference in Washington, DC.  Several NHCSL members traveled to join CHCI for the festivities.

In his remarks at the Gala, the President reiterated his commitment to the Hispanic community through the promotion of job creation, health care reform, and comprehensive immigration reform:

“Our economic strength depends on the success of Hispanic families across our country, and I am determined to put workers of all backgrounds back on the job to rebuild and modernize America, while helping small businesses grow and creating pathways to employment. We are also engaging the Hispanic community in public service, improving educational opportunities, and expanding access to affordable, quality health care. And we remain committed to fixing our broken immigration system so it can meet America's 21st century economic and security needs.”

Other Administration officials attended the CHCI conference including:

  • The Honorable Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative
  • The Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior
  • The Honorable Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor
  • Robert Velasco, Acting Director, Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Elizabeth J. Fowler, Special Assistant to the President for Healthcare and Economic Policy at the National Economic Council
  • Cecilia Muñoz, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Dr. Rosalinda Barrera, Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition, U.S. Department of Education

Higher Education Update

The Pew Hispanic Center released new data demonstrating that the number of 18- to 24-year-olds attending college in the United States hit an all-time high of 12.2 million in October 2010, driven by a single-year surge of 24% in Hispanic enrollment.  From 2009 to 2010, the number of Hispanic young adults enrolled in college grew by 349,000, compared with an increase of 88,000 young blacks and 43,000 young Asian Americans and a decrease of 320,000 young non-Hispanic whites.

As a result of these shifts, young Hispanics for the first time outnumbered young blacks on campus, even though young black college enrollment has also grown steadily for decades and it, too, has surged in recent years.  A mixture of population growth and educational strides has spurred the increase in Hispanic enrollment.

Correspondingly, a new study by Excelencia in Education shows the number of Hispanic-Serving Institutions has expanded significantly.  This pool of HSIs, where undergraduate enrollment is at least 25% Latino, grew by 24% in only six years, swelling from 236 colleges and universities to 293 by 2010.  The spike aligns with census data that show more Hispanics are enrolling in college.  Over half of all Latino undergraduate students in higher education (54%) are enrolled in less than 10% of institutions in the United States.

Immigration Update

At a recent hearing of the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the “American Specialty Agriculture Act” (H.R. 2847).  The bill would create a new “H-2C” visa for temporary agricultural workers to replace the existing H-2A program, and would allow growers to bring in up to 500,000 of these workers each year.

The newest legislative proposal is in stark contrast to Rep. Smith’s “Legal Workforce Act,” introduced in June.  That bill would require all employers to use the highly criticized E-Verify program to check the work eligibility of new hires.

Small business advocates across the country have decried Mandatory E-Verify as bad for the economy and another layer of unnecessary government regulation.   The measure seems to be facing stiff opposition even from within GOP ranks and Tea Party loyalists.  The concerns expressed vary by degree that the proposal will hurt the American agricultural industry or take away state's rights to police undocumented immigration.  Even the Wall Street Journal has criticized such immigration efforts, in a piece entitled “Republican Overregulation” by Wall Street Journal Editorial board member Matt Kaminski on how opposition to sensible immigration reforms is hurting businesses and economic growth.

Less than three months ago, Latino students and families throughout California rejoiced after Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 130 – a bill that allows undocumented students enrolled in California’s public colleges and universities to receive privately funded university scholarships from non-state funds.  Now its companion bill, AB 131 has passed the state legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature.  The bill would allow undocumented students to apply for state-sponsored financial aid.  However, it is unclear whether Gov. Brown will sign the measure regardless of promises he made during his campaign.  The state’s well-publicized budget woes may persuade him to withdraw his support.

Judge Sharon Blackburn, ruling over Alabama’s controversial immigration law, is expected to issue a ruling by September 28.  Nevertheless, the toughest state immigration law in the country may face legal challenges for years to come preventing it from be enacted. 

The New York Times made the case against the Alabama law on its editorial page: “It effectively makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Alabama, by criminalizing working, renting a home and failing to comply with federal registration laws that are largely obsolete. It nullifies any contracts when one party is an undocumented immigrant. It requires the police to check the papers of people they suspect to be here illegally.”

Census Poverty Data By State

The U.S. Census released its latest data on poverty and income this month.  Not surprisingly, the poverty rate jumped past 15% as inflation-adjusted incomes fell during the current disappointing economic recovery.  The national poverty rate last year was 15.1% - up from 11.3% in 2000 and the highest since 1993.  Over 46 million people lived below the poverty line in 2010. The cut-off for that line is households of four people who made under $22,314.  The data further showed that median income per household, adjusted for inflation, was $49,445 nationwide – down 2.3% from 2009 and essentially frozen in place for more than two decades.

At the bottom is Mississippi with a staggering poverty rate of 21.3%. Mississippi also has the lowest median household income at $36,850, and has the nation's seventh-highest unemployment rate at 10.4%. 

In contrast, New Hampshire enjoys a median income of $66,303 and an extremely low unemployment rate of 5.2% as the country’s richest state.

Here are the nation’s richest states, as analyzed by 24/7 Wall Street:

  1. New Hampshire
    Median income: $66,303
    Poverty rate: 7.1% (the lowest)
    Unemployment: 5.2% (4th lowest)
  2. Connecticut
    Median income: $65,958
    Poverty rate: 8.3% (2nd lowest)
    Unemployment: 9.1% (19th highest)
  3. New Jersey
    Median income: $65,173
    Poverty rate: 9.8% (7th lowest)
    Unemployment: 9.5% (14th highest)
  4. Maryland
    Median income: $64,596
    Poverty rate: 9.7% (6th lowest)
    Unemployment: 7.2% (14th lowest)
  5. Alaska
    Median income: $61,872
    Poverty rate: 10.8% (13th lowest)
    Unemployment: 7.7% (20th lowest)

Here are the nation's poorest states:

  1. Mississippi
    Median income: $36,850
    Poverty rate: 21.3% (the highest)
    Unemployment rate: 10.4% (7th highest)
  2. Arkansas
    Median income: $38,600
    Poverty rate: 16.5% (8th highest)
    Unemployment rate: 8.2% (25th highest)
  3. Tennessee
    Median income: $40,026
    Poverty rate: 16.1% (11th highest)
    Unemployment rate: 9.8% (11th highest)
  4. West Virginia
    Median income: $40,824
    Poverty rate: 15.7% (12th highest)
    Unemployment rate: 8.1% (tied for 24th lowest)
  5. Louisiana
    Median income: $41,896
    Poverty rate: 18% (4th highest)
    Unemployment rate: 7.6% (17th lowest)

Latina Named CEO of Girl Scouts USA

Ana Maria Chavez, an attorney originally from Eloy, Arizona, has been named as the new CEO of the 3.2 million-member Girls Scouts of the USA.  Chavez has been CEO of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas since 2009.  Prior to that, she worked in numerous federal and state government positions, including as a deputy chief of staff for urban relations and community redevelopment for Janet Napolitano, former Arizona governor and current U.S. secretary of Homeland Security.  Napolitano, like Chavez, is herself a lifetime Girl Scout member.

The goal of the 99-year-old organization is build courage, confidence and character of its members and to teach girls and young women the value and power of leadership and service through its programs and activities, including financial literacy, environmental conservation, math and science education and health.

"It's living the American dream to start as a girl member several decades ago and now be part of the national leadership team," says Chavez, a Mexican-American who will be the first person of color to lead the group, which includes 2.3 million girl members and nearly 880,000 adult members.

The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) is the preeminent organization representing the interests of 300 Hispanic state legislators from all states, commonwealths, and territories of the United States. Founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3, NHCSL is a catalyst and advocate for joint action on issues of common concern, such as health, education, immigration, homeownership and economic development to all segments of the Hispanic community. NHCSL also works to design and implement policies and procedures that will impact the quality of life for Hispanic communities; serves as a forum for information exchange and member networking; an institute for leadership training; a liaison with sister U.S. Hispanic organizations; a promoter of public/private partnerships with business and labor; and a partner with Hispanic state and provincial legislators and their associations representing Central and South America. For more information visit

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