As a potential federal government shutdown looms, Democratic senators held the first Hispanic Task Force meeting of the 112th Congress on Thursday. Fourteen senators laid out how proposed Republican budget cuts to the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, as originally designed by House Republican leaders, would affect the Hispanic community. These cuts are subject to change in budget negotiations, but it’s worth listening into the discussion.
Major worries discussed were cuts to Head Start (400,000 Hispanic children are in the program), cuts to the Women with Infant and Children (WIC) program (59 percent of beneficiaries are Hispanic), and cuts to the college scholarship Pell Grant program (14 percent of recipients are Hispanic).
“Show me your budget, and I’ll show you your values. Republicans have shown us that issues important the Latino community -strong schools, safe communities, and new good-paying jobs – are not a concern for them. Democrats believe the Hispanic community is a priority, our budget invests in their future, and we will continue to fight on behalf Hispanics across our country,” said Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
The 2010 Census showed rapid growth in the U.S. Hispanic community, which now numbers over 50 million. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Hispanics would suffer if the Republican budget is enacted. “Their extreme proposal slashes Head Start when 36 percent of the program’s participants are Hispanic. It makes drastic cuts to community health centers, when Latinos comprise the largest number of our nation’s uninsured. Furthermore, it puts the Minority Business Development Agency on the chopping block, a program that helped almost 1,500 Latino small business owners in 2009 alone,” Reid said.
Republicans have sharply criticized the budget laid out by President Obama. Democrats respond that the GOP’s budget isn’t serious either–that there’s too much ideology written into the proposed cuts. Neither party wants to give in–and unless an agreement is reached Friday, we’re looking at a federal government shutdown over the weekend. How would that affect immigrants?