Senators, advocates outline Latino policy priorities

June 19, 2017 | Politics
NCLR released its policy agenda for Congress. Among the concerns were health care and immigration.

By Michael Hill

Nicolle Williams is a naturalized U.S. citizen, a native of Colombia. She’s a freshman, seeking a degree from Rutgers Business School and for America to have a better understanding of Latinos.

“As an immigrant and seeing my family immigrate here, its been nothing but hard. A lot of people don’t see that. A lot of people think we have it easy coming here and that’s not the case at all. They come here and they start from the bottom,” Williams said.

Williams is attending this meeting of the National Council of La Raza at the business school to release its policy agenda for Congress and discuss what’s at stake.

“I don’t have to tell anyone in this room that Latinos and Americans, particularly low-income Americans, face a hostile political climate right now. Not everyone is comfortable with our nation’s growing diversity,” said National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguia.

According to the NCLR, New Jersey has the seventh largest Latino population in America. Among Latinos’ concerns here and across the country: immigration, the proposed federal budget and the fate of the Affordable Care Act that gave insurance to four million Latinos, 600,000 of them children. Republican senators have been meeting in secret to try to pass a bill that would let the states determine coverage for pre-existing conditions.

“That kind of secrecy has to deal with the shame of what they know is inside of this, which again is what? Stripping away health care for millions of Americans, making it more affordable for American families, giving massive tax breaks to the wealthiest among us, that’s really what’s going to happen here. … The thing that worries me most this month, because remember Mitch McConnell says he wants to get this done by July 4, done by July 4, this is something that took over a year to do,” said Sen. Cory Booker.

“When you ultimately choose to dramatically slash Medicaid and then move it into a block grant, which my experience in Congress of going to block grant, block grant is under the guise of flexibility and giving the states a greater ability to do what’s necessary in their state, but is one step away from ending the program,” Sen. Menendez said.

“Compassion needs to be on both sides of that equation. Yes, you have to have compassion for folks receiving the federal funds, but yes, you have to have compassion for the folks who are paying it,” said White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

Williams, upset with friends who declined to vote in the recent gubernatorial primaries, took in the discussion with an eye toward changing her major from marketing and management to marketing and political science.

“Because later down the line I actually want to go and have a career in politics. I feel that that’s really where you make the change,” Williams said.

The National Council of La Raza hopes the advocates who were listening to the senators share will take what they’ve learned here out to the public and to other voters and other advocates across American and New Jersey to have a direct impact on voting and on public policy.