At this pivotal time in American politics, the work of the leading Latino coalition in the nation is more important than ever in order to achieve unity to advance the Latino agenda. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) brings together 40 prominent national advocacy organizations to promote policy priorities and greater unity, visibility and influence for the Latino community in the national political process.
Recently, the NHLA board met to discuss its long-term and short-term strategies. Amid the attacks against the Latino community by political and other groups over the last several years, the board developed a bold six point action plan that will be implemented immediately. This plan comes at a critical time leading up to the Presidential elections and is essential to stymie the anti-Latino sentiments that are becoming increasingly imbedded in the national political discourse and are having a negative impact on our community's quality of life. Over next two years, NHLA will:
1) Launch a full-scale non-partisan effort to engage presidential candidates to state their positions on Latino priorities
With a record number of eligible Latinos expected to vote in November 2016, the community will play a significant role in the upcoming presidential election. The population of Latinos eligible to vote by 2016 is expected to increase by 18 percent over 2012 to about 28 million people, more than 11percent of voters nationwide. Because many of the candidates have expressed a desire to win the Latino vote, we will engage with presidential candidates from both parties inviting them to discuss with us our agenda and clearly articulate where they stand on each of our policy priorities.
However, despite the clear demographic and electoral trends, limited attention has been focused on investing in Latino civic participation efforts, we estimate that the most serious underinvestment in democracy and civic participation happens in our community. We will work to change that.
2)Unveil the 2016 Hispanic Policy Agenda at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions
NHLA will publish the 2016 Hispanic Policy Agenda in advance of the DNC and RNC. The agenda, which will be formally presented at both of the conventions, outlines the issues of utmost importance to the Latino community. It is the result of feedback from numerous meetings, discussions and roundtables. This agenda consists of specific recommendations, goals and proposed amendments that are necessary to ensure that the Executive branch, the legislature and the judiciary affect a profound, lasting and positive impact.
3)Issue a scorecard for the 114th Congress that reflect the Latino priorities
NHLA will issue a Congressional Scorecard to educate the public, media, and members of Congress on important votes that have been taken in the House and Senate, that impact the social, economic, and political advancement, not to mention the quality of life, of Latinos. The goal of the scorecard is to provide important feedback to the public about actions taken by their political leaders, as well as to shape the upcoming legislative agenda.
4)Continue the "Latinos United" Campaigns to vigorously advocate on Core Public Policy Issues
Since 2012, the NHLA has been mobilizing and activating Latinos on the key policy issues, including Educational Opportunity, Fair Economy, Healthcare, Immigration Reform, and Voting Rights. We launched policy campaigns under the Latinos United banner to elevate the voices of the coalition's members in advancing and defending public policies that impact the lives of Latinos. In order to ensure all these campaigns are truly inclusive, NHLA created a Latina Task Force to promote gender equity through all of our policy priorities. While we have succeeded in securing some important advancements stemming from this initiative but our work is far from done.
5)Promote Greater Diversity in Public Service and Address the Underrepresentation of Latinos and Latinas at the Federal, State and Local Levels
a.) Workforce DevelopmentCurrently Latinos account for only eight percent of the federal personnel. The underrepresentation of Latinos in the federal workforce stands to result in negative implications for the larger Latino community. NHLA has been advocating for structural changes in the federal employment and political appointments processes to curb the potential long-term consequences resulting from unequal representation of the growing majority population. In collaboration with the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment, NHLA approved a recommendation to the President for an Executive Order on Latino Federal Employment. In addition, the NHLA has been applying pressure to hold all of the federal agencies accountable on their diversity and hiring practices. One of our main achievements was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, which addresses workforce diversity, contracting, and educational programs.
b.)Presidential AppointmentsIn order to ensure that our government better reflects the diversity of the nation, NHLA launched the Presidential Appointments Program, an effort to increase the number of Latino political appointees. In 2014 alone, we supported 30 individuals who were nominated, promoted or appointed to federal political positions. We have also built a resume bank of over 400 qualified candidates. In addition, we have held outreach events with over 70 Latino federal organizations across the country, hosted webinars and provided direct coaching to prospective candidates.
At a certain point in 2012, Latinos were not part of the President's cabinet. At that time, we called for the appointment of at least three Latinos. We are proud that this goal was realized last year when the U.S. Small Business Association Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro joined the U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez at the Cabinet table. We vigorously supported the nomination and confirmation of all three through grasstops and grassroots efforts, including a social media campaign that engaged 250,000 people across the nation. We will continue these efforts in the next administration.
c.)Latinas RepresentWhile gains have been made in other areas, Latinas continue to hold a minority of elected positions throughout our country. Latinas make up just one percent of all elected leaders in the United States. Thus, Latinas are absent in places of decision-making power. The consequence of this touches more than just women. It deprives our country of the important perspective of Latina leaders and results in greater alienation of Latinos. NHLA joined forces with Political Parity last year to tackle this grave problem by launching LatinasRepresent, an initiative aimed at highlighting this problem, empowering Latinas to seek elected positions and preparing them for office. To achieve this, we have been meeting with hundreds of Latinas across the country. We have held educational forums, partnered on important research and collaborated with experts to address this problem and inspire more women to run for and win political positions. We will continue our aggressive advocacy with LatinasRepresent.
6)Undertake a Latino Power Project
In order to advance the Latino agenda in the long-term, we will create a plan that analyzes the existing Latino paths to power, defines what Latino power looks like going forward and develops a framework to increase Latino influence. NHLA will spearhead a Latino Power Project that will be guided by Latino leaders, visionaries and professionals around our great country. Together we will take stock of where Latinos stand today on our nation's "power meter." We will identify the structural and systemic changes that are required to allow us to reach our full potential. Finally, we will create an advocacy plan that guarantees the fair representation of Latinos at the most important tables and in the spaces where major decisions are made.
The NHLA celebrates the victories that we have achieved over the last few years. We are proud of the important national campaigns that we have built around Latino priorities. Our coalition members have used all of the tools at our disposal from grassroots organizing, engaging the media to amplify our message, convening town hall meetings, issuing substantive reports to educate policy makers and calling for direct action on matters that impact our community.
All of our initiatives to date have resulted in meetings with the President, Cabinet Secretaries, White House Officials, and Members of Congress. We have pressed for further action on Latino policy priorities and, together, we have made important strides.
Even still, the truth is that there is much work to do for the Latino community. As such, we recommit ourselves to achieving our mission of advancing the interests of Latinos in the United States. Most importantly, we seek to engage and partner with the public to realize our goals and fulfill our agenda. The Latino community is as an essential and valuable part of this nation. We are part of the fabric of this country and we espouse the very ideals upon which this country has been built. Latino priorities are, by definition, the priorities of the United States as a whole.
Hector E. Sanchez is the Chair of the NHLA (National Hispanic Leadership Agenda) and Executive Director of LCLAA (Labor Council for Latin American Advancement).