Top Hispanic Democrat: 'We are failing' on staff diversity in Congress

Top Hispanic Democrat: 'We are failing' on staff diversity in Congress
© Greg Nash

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) is calling on House Democrats to reevaluate their hiring practices to address a glaring lack of diversity in senior staff positions on Capitol Hill.

"As Americans continue to educate themselves about systemic injustice and how our nation has failed whole populations of its citizens, it is time the United States Congress and the Democratic Party take an honest look at our own shortcomings," Cárdenas wrote in a Monday letter to House Democrats first shared with The Hill.

Cárdenas, chairman of Bold PAC, the powerful Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm, said the diversity among lawmakers is not translating to diversity among senior staff.

ADVERTISEMENT

"While it is true that we have the most diverse Congress in American history, when it comes to diversity in our staff recruitment, hiring, and retention practices in our offices, leadership teams, and committee staff, we are failing," Cárdenas wrote.

Cárdenas compared the lack of congressional staff diversity to conditions in corporate America, where he said Black and Latino professionals hold only about 5 percent of executive posts.

As of last year, Hispanics accounted for 18.5 percent of the U.S. population, followed by 13.4 percent for Black Americans and 5.9 percent for Asians. Multi-racial residents made up 2.8 percent of the population, with 1.3 percent American Indian or Alaska Native and 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Non-Hispanic whites made up 60.1 percent of the population in 2019, according to the Census Bureau.

In Congress, Cárdenas wrote, people of color hold only 152 of the 1,110 senior staff positions, or 13.6 percent.

"The data is clear: people of color are not being promoted or hired for senior staff positions. This is not for a lack of diverse candidates who are dedicated and qualified. How can we expect to address issues of racial discrimination when the vast majority of our staff working on these issues cannot speak directly to the experiences of racial injustice?" he wrote.

Cárdenas called for the formation of a task force made up of lawmakers to identify best practices in hiring more diverse staff and ensuring more equitable hiring practices.

"As we work to dismantle systemic racism throughout the United States, it is time for us to be bold, break our habits, and correct our flaws as a legislative body and a caucus. We must face our glaring failure as a Congress. Building a truly diverse House of Representatives is our responsibility, and, as leaders, we must do it now," Cárdenas added.