Over the weekend Hispanics in Southern California scolded President Barack Obama and the White House for their failure to fix the economy. Obama administration staff have traveled the country hosting “White House Hispanic Community Action Summits” in a last-ditch effort to repair President Obama’s tarnished image among Latinos before the 2012 election.
White House officials were expecting to give speeches and “educate” Latinos on the “positive” impacts Obama’s policies have had on the Hispanic community. Yet, many Hispanics in attendance at the summit were not in the mood to be lectured. They wanted to be heard and wanted answers to their problems. The harsh reality for most Latino families is that life has gotten harder since Obama took the White House.
Hispanics are facing a higher than average unemployment rate, have been hit hardest by the recession and are in the group hit the hardest by poverty. Hispanic children have the highest rate of poverty in the nation.
The White House Latino event was held at the University of California Riverside in the Inland Empire, where Latinos compose over 40% of the area’s population. The Los Angeles Times reported on the summit:
“The economic wounds from the recession remain raw in a region where fortunes plummeted with the crash of the housing market and construction industry. Once a haven for Latino immigrants looking for housing construction jobs, unemployment now hovers around 14% in San Bernardino County and 13% in Riverside County.
“This just can’t be an exercise in politics. It can’t be, a region gets checked off and we move on,” said Paul Granillo, president of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, a coalition of the region’s businesses, government and nonprofit groups. “The challenges that face us are severe.”…
Nationwide, the Latino unemployment rate is just over 13%, compared with the national average of about 9%. Nearly a quarter of the 51 million Latinos in the U.S. live in poverty, compared with 15% for the nation as a whole.
San Bernardino, a city where Latinos account for 6 of every 10 residents, has the second-highest poverty rate among the nation’s major cities. A U.S. Census report released in September showed that 34.7% of city residents live below the poverty line.”
During the event the White House tried to point to the successful passage of health care reform as a highlight of the administration. Though some Hispanic activists do not see the legislation as a victory.
“UC Riverside political science professor Armando Navarro, a vocal immigrant rights activist, didn’t let the president off so easy. Navarro said Obama made a serious miscalculation pushing his healthcare legislation through Congress early in his term, depleting precious political capital that would have been better used for initiatives to create jobs and save homes from foreclosure.
“His first order of business should have been to get people back to work,” Navarro said.
Latinos now make up 38% of the California population, nearly matching the state’s 40% non-Hispanic white population. Any party hoping to compete in statewide elections must court Latinos. During the 2010 election, Latino voters cast 1.7 million votes statewide, an increase of 300,000 votes from the 2008 presidential election. They are likely to make an even larger share of the 2012 vote.
The White House has held similar events have been held in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, New York and Florida.