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Top Hispanic group: Biden's first 100 days a 'down payment on real progress'

Top Hispanic group: Biden's first 100 days a 'down payment on real progress'
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The country's largest Hispanic civil rights group on Monday issued a report praising President BidenJoe BidenBiden prepares to confront Putin Ukrainian president thanks G-7 nations for statement of support Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting MORE's first 100 days, but warning that the White House will have to expend political capital to follow through on the president's campaign promises.

UnidosUS, formerly known as the National Council of La Raza, praised the American Rescue Plan in the report, saying the pandemic response bill addressed many of the Hispanic community's policy priorities.

"But securing passage of the [American Rescue Plan] is only the first step. In many ways, what lies ahead for the administration is even more difficult and will require much more of the president’s team," reads the report.

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The central concern laid out in the report is the potential for an unequal implementation of the American Rescue Plan and other upcoming economic and health care initiatives, following a pattern that's historically dogged minority and impoverished communities.

"They're doing a really great job with the COVID-19 and with the whole effort to get everyone vaccinated," said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS.

"Unfortunately we still have the stubborn challenge of so much of the systemic racism and inequalities that we've seen in our system brought to light," she added.

According to the report, Latinos are less likely to use government benefits, even when they are eligible.

Historically, Hispanic communities have been more likely to fear interactions with government, a reality that's particularly true of immigrant communities and mixed status families.

But the report also blames disinformation, a reluctance to take "handouts" and poor public communications strategies for underutilization of public benefits.

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"The exclusion of so many Latinos from resources to meet their basic needs undermines President Biden’s commitment to equity and inclusion, threatens Hispanic families and their children with physical harm and financial ruin, and will be a drag on the economy and our nation’s recovery," reads the report.

Still, Murguía said the Biden administration's attitude toward immigrants and minority communities is already having a positive effect on policy.

"Times have been really hard not just because of the previous administration but because of this extraordinary pandemic we find ourselves in," she said.

"Then the question becomes, 'now what?' We want to make sure that in addition to moving away from [former President] Trump and his negative and cruel policies and practices, that we're going to be able to move forward as a community and as a country," she added.

The UnidosUS report includes a tracker of policy priorities in different areas that have been addressed by the Biden administration, and a list of issues yet to be addressed.

On COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution, an area where the Biden administration has enjoyed widespread praise, UnidosUS touts the size and scope of the effort, but calls for the release of race and ethnicity data, as well as expanded efforts to distribute vaccines in community health centers.

While the report focuses on economic, education and health care policy for the most part, it also calls on the Biden administration to increase hiring of Hispanics at all levels of government.

"On the surface there's no question … that diverse representation in the administration at the highest levels in the cabinet is very present," said Murguía.

"But I would say where we still have yet to see the full 4,000 appointments to be made, how diverse those are going to be," she added.

And while the report touches on immigration to call for pandemic relief for undocumented taxpayers and to ask Biden to elevate his Task Force for New Americans to a permanent office within the executive office of the president, immigration reform remains the elephant in the room in Biden's relationship with Hispanics.

Immigration is rarely the No. 1 issue for Hispanic communities, but immigration reform is often seen as a proxy to a politician's investment in the Latino electorate.

That's put Biden's White House in a familiar pinch, with a long legislative agenda, a short political calendar and competing priorities on the docket.

"The numbers coming out of election results are demonstrating what we already knew, and that is that President Biden benefited from a growing diverse electorate," said Murguía.

"For young Latino voters and for the rest of the country, there's broad support for relief for dreamers, DACA beneficiaries, and to see common sense immigration reform finally achieved," she added.