US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris touted their accomplishments among Latino communities and pledged to combat voter suppression efforts at the 38th annual summit of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
On Thursday, the event included a number of prominent Latino politicians and administration officials as speakers, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, California Democratic senator Alex Padilla and New Mexico Senator Ben Ray LujÃ¡n.
In her remarks at the event, Harris - who has spoken at NALEO events several times before - said that the administration is keenly aware "that there are barriers that keep people from participating fully."
"I'm talking about a lack of access to childcare, healthcare and vaccinations for underserved communities," she said. "These issues are priorities for me and for our administration."
Additionally, she laid out three administration priorities for the Latino community: providing access to capital for small business owners, providing a pathway to citizenship, and protecting access to the right to vote.
Earlier this week, Senate Republicans blocked an expansive voting rights bill, which formed part of a federal effort to fight against state-imposed voting limits in a number of Republican-led states.
"We're reinforcing the coalition that has been doing this work for so many years....to push back on voter suppression efforts," Harris added. "Here's the bottom line: our democracy is strongest when everyone participates."
"We build to make that possible in our country," the Vice President added. "Everyone should be able to participate at every level."
In his brief remarks, President Biden sought to reassure Latino communities across the US that "equity is at the core of everything we do", with Latino families benefitting from both the American Rescue Plan and the administration's "plans to fix our broken immigration system."
"The work of our administration isn't just about recognition or representation. It's about delivering results," he told the NALEO conference participants. "As public servants, that's your job as well."
California Democrat Alex Padilla, for his part, noted that the administration still has work to do in terms of helping the Latino community recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
"This year was challenging for so many in our community. Covid-19 highlighted stark inequalities in employment, healthcare and more," he said. "[Many Latinos] couldn't just switch to remote work. Latino essential workers put their lives, and their family's lives, on the line daily to see our nation through the pandemic."
These efforts, Padilla added, should be repaid by presenting a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented residents in the country - which he said will ultimately have a beneficial impact on the economy.
"A just recovery means immigration reformer. Dreamers, TPS [Temporary Protected Status] workers farmers and all undocumented workers have sacrificed so much to see this country through the pandemic," he said.
"Immigrant's work has been essential since long before the Covid-19 pandemic," Padilla added. "It's time for Congress to recognize this fact and act accordingly."
A recent report from the Center for American Progress and the University of California - Davis suggested that creating a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States would add $1.7 trillion and create over 438,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
A total of 10.2 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to be living and working across the country, who on average has lived in the US for 16 years. Polls have shown that a majority of Americans favor giving undocumented residents a pathway to citizenship.
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