Employment woes hitting Latinos hard
December 5, 2001
Latinos are disproportionately represented among the workers and families who have been hardest hit by the nation's economic and employment woes. In October, 136,000 Hispanics joined the ranks of the unemployed, driving up the Latino unemployment rate to 7.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor.
Latino immigrant workers tend to work in industries that are especially vulnerable to layoffs, and they and their families are highly likely to fall through the gaps in the federal safety net.
States are also feeling the pressure, as the number of those out of work and out of options continues to grow. These workers need help to by basic food and provide health-care needs for their families as they look for new jobs.
But in Washington, Congress has entered a political stalemate over passing an economic-stimulus package. Both Republicans and Democrats have wrangled over how to respond to the U.S. recession.
Absent any serious proposals to help workers, Republican leaders are forcing a compromise that would primarily help corporations profit. American workers stand to get little or nothing.
And all the while the White House seems content to remain on the sidelines instead of exercising leadership.
Latinos, especially Hispanic immigrants, have made serious contributions to the nation's prosperity, both with their labor and their purchasing power. Many of them now need a little help to keep their families fed and healthy until they find new jobs.
But far too many are ineligible for unemployment insurance, food stamps and health coverage, including Medicaid and other temporary health care for newly unemployed workers. Opening the doors of these programs to families looking for work should be paramount for lawmakers.
Congress and the White House need to push states to provide Medicaid coverage to all unemployed workers and to expand eligibility for unemployment insurance and food stamps. And any emergency assistance to states ought to prioritize serving those not eligible for federal services.
President Bush should take an active lead in Washington to break the impasse and fight for America's workers.
Raul Yzaguirre is president of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation's largest Hispanic civil-rights organization. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.