WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force, spoke today at the Latino Issues Summit titled, The Rise of the Latino Electorate, where he stressed the urgent need to expand economic opportunity and upward mobility for New Mexico's Hispanic community.
Speakers at the summit included U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Senate Democrats, and advocacy organizations. The summit focused on immigration, voting rights, college affordability, pay equity, and workforce diversity.
Below are Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery:
I would like to thank all of you for allowing me to join in this important discussion on issues that impact our Hispanic and Latino communities.
I want to thank the earlier panel for addressing how to better engage and mobilize our youth and recent U.S. citizens in our democratic process and the urgent need to finally fix our broken immigration system.
As the son of an immigrant myself, I'm familiar with the unique promise America represents for families.
And as a senator from New Mexico, I know the Hispanic and Latino communities has long helped write the economic, social, and cultural story of America.
And that's why the issues covered by this next panel are so central to understanding a community that is a growing political, economic, and social force here in the United States.
My home state of New Mexico is nearly half Hispanic.
Our Hispanic and Latino communities are diverse and not defined by a single issue.
We have Hispanic families whose deep history in the continental United States dates back more than four centuries.
And we have newer generations of families who've emigrated from Mexico and Latin America to New Mexico and the United States to build a better life for their children.
But all of them want to see their communities become better places to live, to work, to start businesses, and to raise a family.
Increasing education and economic opportunities couldn't be more urgent for Hispanics and Latinos.
Too many people are working more and earning less.
The Hispanic and Latino communities must be at the table as we strive to build and maintain a stronger, inclusive, and thriving middle class
That's why I strongly support raising the minimum wage, expanding education and lifelong training opportunities, restoring labor standards, and increasing access to health care.
And we must close the wage gap for women.
The wage gap for Latina women halts the progress of our economy, forces Hispanic families to make ends meet with less, and undermines the notion that everyone deserves an honest day's pay for a full day's work.
We also have to expand access to higher education and reduce the burden of student loan debt that too often prevents people from buying a house, starting a new business, or even pursuing higher education to begin with.
I'm always trying to find ways to bring together employers, entrepreneurs, and educators to create a pipeline of success that starts with early childhood education, continues with a pathway to higher education, and concludes with a career.
These three sectors must work together if we are to turn out a highly-educated workforce that can fill and create the high-paying, high-skilled jobs of the future.
When I go home and meet with families across New Mexico, there's a common thread among the Hispanic community--they have a strong commitment to their families and service to their communities.
I see it in the mother who works two or three jobs in order to put her child through college; or the father who picks up an extra shift to make the rent or to buy school supplies.
That spirit is in the college student working toward an engineering degree so she can create advanced technologies that will form the backbone of our economy in the century ahead, and in the community college student preparing for the university or learning vocational skills that will prepare him for a new job.
That spirit is in the small business owner who gives back to his local community by volunteering at his neighborhood school.
And that same spirit is in the young DREAMer mobilizing her friends, neighbors, and her community to ensure they are given a chance to succeed in this country.
The incredible potential of our Hispanic and Latino communities sits in classrooms, churches, and at kitchen tables in homes across my home state, and across our great nation.
That's why these types of discussions are so important.
If you keep doing your part by bringing awareness to these issues, I assure you, I will keep doing mine here in the Senate to fight for Latino and Hispanic families.
Because I believe that if we work together--juntos podemos más.