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Latinos have become such a large and important presence in the United States that national progress can only come through their inclusion, Henry Cisneros told the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Thursday.
Latinos continue to grow in their demographic, economic, political and cultural importance to the country, said Cisneros MPA 1973, a former mayor of San Antonio and secretary for housing and urban development in the Clinton administration. His appearance at the Forum was part of the Latino Law and Public Policy Conference.
They are projected to account for about half the population growth in the United States in the coming decades, Cisneros said. That growth would help an aging country
find a youthful and energetic workforce, but also provide large challenges.
“(Latinos) are so numerous now that if we fail to move
the needle on Latino education now, the nation’s education statistics reflect it, if we fail to move the needle on moving into the middle class … the nation’s prosperity suffers,” Cisneros said.
Cisneros, currently chairman of the CityView companies, community building firms that focus on affordable housing, said that the effort to integrate Latinos, especially immigrants, into the American dream has to come from
“Counterbalancing a commitment from Latinos to work, and study, and pay taxes and raise our children, and abide by the laws, and become Americans, is an acceptance on the part of the general American population that we’re going to be here … a reciprocal understanding that we’re going to keep open the path to the middle class.”
Securing the traditional pathways to economic improvement, such as public education and home ownership, and making them available to all is vital to the general wellbeing of the nation.
Cisneros said that immigration reform was vital to fuller Latino participation. This, he said, can only be accomplished by linking border security with a guest worker program and a path to citizenship.
“Of all the thing that I am — I’m a Latino, I’m also a father, a husband, a Catholic , a Democrat, I’m a lot of things — the one that I consider to be closest to the center of my being is an American,” he said. “I love this country. I believe that its best days are yet ahead, but I believe that in order for its best days to yet be ahead, the Latino population must be part of that picture in a progressive and profound way.”
Photos: Mike Casey