The Declining Economic Power of Hispanics
February 21, 1997
in this forum:
How has immigration impacted the Hispanic population? Would foreign aid reduce illegal immigration? What part does racism play in Hispanics economic troubles? What role has and should the government play? Are different groups doing better than others? ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
Jan. 2, 1997: Jeffrey Kaye looks at the rising political power of Hispanics.
Oct. 23, 1996: Hispanic Americans fight against a possible backlash against immigration.
A question from the Online NewsHour:
Does the recent data about Hispanic average family income and poverty data represent an indictment of affirmative action and other government programs to help minorities and the poor? Should these programs be revised or discontinued?
Linda Chavez responds:
As I've already noted, I don't trust the data you're citing in this question. Having said that, affirmative action is no remedy. For one thing, it's an insult to suggest that Hispanics need special assistance from the government in order to succeed. They are quite capable of achieving on their own. The very existence of affirmative action casts doubts on their God-given abilities -- and this creates harmful perceptions among non-Hispanics. To the extent that affirmative action does function, its benefits mainly go to people in the middle-class who don't need them. Hispanics are best off not thinking of themselves as members of an oppressed group in need of help, but as individual Americans who can and must be judged on their own merits.
Speaker Cruz Bustamante responds:
These statistics are not an indictment of affirmative action because many Latinos do not have the basic foundation to even enter these programs. We must provide this foundation with education and job training so that Hispanics have the groundwork to be eligible for affirmative action and increased-opportunity programs.
I agree with President Clinton on affirmative action programs when he says "mend it, don't end it." Affirmative action programs in California and across the nation have problems, but none so severe as to scrap each and every program with even the hint of giving a step up to anyone. We must open up opportunities to those who have historically been closed off. This does not mean we can close off opportunities to others in the process, however. Affirmative action programs can and must be reformed to accommodate the needs of America in the 21st century while still recognizing that some vestiges of the 19th century still prevail in our society.