Exclusive: Schumer and Latino leaders tout spending plan’s environmental credentials

Flooding is seen in Des Allemands, La., on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021
Associated Press/Steve Helber

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is teaming up with a broad array of Hispanic leaders on Wednesday to tout the Democratic spending bill’s environmental credentials.

The effort, dubbed the “Climate Day of Action,” is part of an effort to capitalize on the popularity of environmental action among many Hispanic communities in support of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act.

Joining Schumer will be the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), as well as some of the top groups in Hispanic political mobilization, civil rights and environmental advocacy, including GreenLatinos, the Hispanic Federation, UnidosUS, Mi Familia Vota, Corazon Latino, PoderLatinx and Farmworker Justice.

“Protecting the health of our planet also means investing in the wellbeing of the Latino community,” said Schumer in a statement.

“Senate Democrats are working hard to deliver legislation that will safeguard our environment while providing jobs and economic opportunity to Latinos and communities of color in this country, including our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico,” he added.

The Climate Day of Action push will coalesce around a tweetstorm led by Schumer, Senate Democrats, the CHC and GreenLatinos.

The focus is to add pressure for passage of BBB – Schumer’s top task as the year winds down – by energizing a Hispanic base that’s motivated by environmental issues.

“An important strategy is how we get climate and environmental issues to be motivating factors for our community to vote but also to activate and participate,” said Mark Magaña, president of GreenLatinos.

Climate change is a top concern for 81 percent of Latino voters, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, and the environment generally ranks high among the Hispanic community’s concerns.

According to Magaña, that support has both to do with the immediate effects of pollution on Latino communities, and on the broader effects of climate change on the places where U.S. Latinos and their relatives throughout the continent live.

“We’ve found that framing of the climate and the environment and the effects on children, current effects on children – asthma – immediate local effects, is what has the strongest messaging,” said Magaña.

“It’s those mothers and those communities of mothers that drive action in our community,” he added.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, there exists a health disparity in incidences of asthma between white Americans and Black, Hispanic and Indigenous Americans.

Puerto Ricans, in particular, are two times as likely to have asthma than white Americans.

Diseases connected to localized pollution, like asthma, have proven a political motivating factor for Hispanics in the past, but climate change is also a concern for a community with major population centers in vulnerable areas like Florida and California.

And the concern extends to the countries of origin of immigrant Latinos, where many still have relatives, and where climate-related disasters have spurred further migration.

“There is a lot of motivation, because the most high-level effects of climate change are already being seen in Central America,” said Magaña.

Hurricanes in the region have spurred migration over the past few decades, but climate change has also contributed to crop failures that distort already teetering economies.

Many U.S. Hispanics help their families throughout Latin America with remittances – direct cash transfers – and those expenses can rise when local economies fail.

While BBB does not include specific aid to Latin America, it includes about $600 billion in spending in programs that would benefit the environment, from transportation to water to clean energy and better land usage, according to the Sierra Club.

“Hispanic communities are among the most impacted communities to the effects of climate change. The Build Back Better Act will help us equitably address the impacts of climate change all while creating clean energy jobs that will benefit Americans nationwide,” said the CHC’s chair, Rep. Raúl Ruiz (D-Calif.).

Tags Build Back Better Act CHC Chuck Schumer Climate change Congressional Hispanic Caucus Environment

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