National Council of La Raza Opines on State of the Union

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The National Council of La Raza (NLCR) today reflected on President Obama's State of the Union address.

The NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. Today, the organization sent out an email regarding Obama's key points.

The NCLR also stated that more than 80 percent of those who took a survey said they were "absolutely certain that you would vote in November."

Here are NCLR's reflections, broken down into key priorities:

Economy and Employment:
We were pleased to hear the president speak to the need for public investment in education and workforce training to prepare workers for good jobs. From much-needed investments in our transportation infrastructure, which employs nearly one million Latinos, to proposals to rebuild our neighborhoods, the Latino workforce has much to contribute and much to gain from these job creation proposals.

NCLR was pleased that President Obama's remarks included his continuing commitment to education, citing investments in the Race to the Top competition and building on the strengths of teachers. While these are steps in the right direction, public schools and Latino students continue to face many challenges. As the president begins his fourth year in the White House, NCLR urges the administration to move forward a comprehensive education reform agenda that maintains high levels of accountability for schools and secures the success of Latino and English language learner children.

Last night, the president talked about some of the ways in which health care reform law will improve access to health insurance, such as ending denials for preexisting conditions. NCLR believes that we must protect the gains in the law that will result in new pathways to coverage for many Latinos and make sure that programs that promote health equity are fully funded. We also agree with President Obama that as a nation, we need to have a serious conversation about entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, but we urge the president and Congress to put all policy options on the table rather than asking low-income families to bear the brunt of the changes. P.S.—Stay tuned this week for a new brief from NCLR on the role of Medicare for the Hispanic community.

Last night, President Obama told Congress that we should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. Congress and the administration must continue to work toward a comprehensive solution that will truly be worthy of our country, as well as restore integrity to the immigration system and uphold our values. Having an immigration system that includes a legalization program is part of an "economy that is built to last" because it will generate needed economic growth, create jobs, and increase tax contributions. As the president mentioned, allowing hundreds of thousands of DREAMers who have overcome tremendous hurdles to stay and enrich our country is common sense. We urge members of Congress to reject the politics of division and to come to the table to fix our broken immigration system.

Social Security:
For the Hispanic community, the benefits of Social Security are extremely critical, as they help keep the majority of Latino seniors out of poverty. More than half of Latino seniors rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. We are relieved that the president did not call for across-the-board cuts to Social Security that would hurt millions who have no other source of income. Social Security's promise, which is so critical to millions of retirees, low-income workers, and their families, should not be threatened by those who want to use it as a piggy bank for the current national deficit.

President Obama highlighted key steps he has taken to help our country rebound from the economic crisis and the need for a fair lending system. NCLR commends the president for the bold move of appointing a Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to defend consumers from abusive financial services and scams. He also advanced policies that will help unemployed homeowners remain in their homes for up to 12 months while they secure a new job. The president, however, has squandered his opportunity to make Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac major players in reviving the housing market. We urge him to use this unique moment of conservatorship to grant principal reductions for underwater mortgages.

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