Op-ed: Hispanic Heritage Month Is More Important Than Ever

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

BY SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER | In New York, we draw strength from our incredible diversity. It’s what we’re made from–we are the home to the Statue of Liberty, the home of Ellis Island, and home to more immigrants than just about any other state. A huge and significant part of that diversity is New York’s Latino population.

You can see it in the proud legacy of Latinos that have called our state home—from Tito Puente, to Sonya Sotomayor, to the millions of families across generations. You can see it in our bodegas, taste it in our food, and hear it ringing from our churches. It’s enshrined in our murals, preserved in our libraries, and courses through our music.

It is with all this in in mind that I wish communities across the United States a happy start to Hispanic Heritage Month.

Through war and peace, joy and sorrow, and in times of both wealth and profound poverty—Latino Americans have played a central part of our nation’s story. They give life to our national creed that out of many, we are one.

This year and all years, we celebrate that truth, while at the same time recognizing the many ways we could more closely stitch together the fabric of the American tapestry. For America cannot celebrate the richness of its Latino heritage without also recognizing the challenges Latinos face in today’s political landscape.

There are more Hispanic Americans living in the US than ever before, in every corner of the country. But today, we have an administration that has gone out of its way to exclude and intimidate Latinos in America.

We see it not just in the president’s words and tweets, but in the policies of his administration and his Republican allies in Congress: from slashing healthcare coverage for millions of families, to handing out tax breaks to the ultra-rich, to limiting critical federal dollars from reaching our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico, to turning their backs on immigrants and migrants in search of a better life in America, and failing to take meaningful action to address climate change and gun violence, two issues that disproportionately affect Hispanics.

Now more than ever, we need to resist the voices of intolerance and push for policies that expand opportunity for every city and every zip code in America.

That means we need to make sure that we lower the costs of healthcare and prescription drugs. It means that we need to raise wages and close the pay gap for Latino families who are working harder but still falling behind. It means we need to strengthen our democracy and make sure our census counts everyone. It means we need to provide DACA and TPS holders with a permanent legislative solution that includes a path to citizenship. And it means that we need to invest in our children’s future: from protecting our environment to instituting meaningful gun safety measures.

Behind this diverse list of priorities is a common set of values: family, hard work, and strength in the face of struggle. These are the values that have made our country the envy of the world. It is also at the heart of what this month is all about.

So to everyone celebrating Hispanic Heritage month, I wish you all my best. It is an honor to talk with you, to fight for you, and celebrate a part of our national identity that is truly unlike any other.

Charles Schumer is a U.S. Senator and the Senate Democratic Leader

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