Top Latina advocate: Hispanics need Biden spending bill, homeownership and immigration

The head of the country’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization on Thursday delivered a straightforward recipe for Hispanic prosperity to Congress: Pass President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, promote homeownership and deliver on immigration reform.

UnidosUS President Janet Murguía plans to tell the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth that structural factors perpetuate economic gaps that hamper productivity and perpetuate income and wealth gaps.

“​​Latinos have incredible resilience and fortitude — I urge you to imagine the contributions they could make to the economy if our community had a fair and equal opportunity to thrive,” said Murguía in her prepared statements obtained by The Hill.

Murguía’s comments will come as part of a committee hearing on race and inequality.

According to research by UnidosUS, Latina-led families have a median net worth equal to a nickel on the dollar of families led by white men, and about a dime on the dollar to the net worth of families led by white women.

In her written testimony to the committee, Murguía wrote that Black families have a median net worth of $24,000, Hispanic families of $36,000 and white families of $188,000.

“The moment has never been more critical: Latinos are more likely to die from COVID-19, less likely to have health insurance, and more likely to struggle to make ends meet. Importantly, the systems that exacerbate inequality and keep Latinos from building wealth can be addressed,” said Murguía.

Murguía emphasized the child tax credit provisions in the Build Back Better bill, saying monthly payments instituted by the Biden administration — which recently expired — kept 3.8 million children from poverty.

Biden’s massive spending package is currently stalled in the Senate. Biden on Wednesday admitted his signature legislation would have a better chance to make it to his desk in a piecemeal fashion.

“Second, homeownership is the single most powerful strategy for closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap,” said Murguía.

She called on Congress to approve down payment assistance and improve housing availability to aid in that goal, but also tied educational investment and student aid relief to homeownership.

“And to enable savings that allow homeownership and financial well-being, Congress should make college education more equitable by investing in completion grants and canceling student loan debt,” said Murguía.

The UnidosUS head added that immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would be beneficial to the economy as a whole.

“Immigrants have long been part of the solution to labor shortages, yet last year, the U.S. saw the lowest levels of international migration in decades,” she said.

The original version of Biden’s spending package included a pathway to citizenship for a majority of the country’s nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, but that number was whittled down in negotiations with the Senate parliamentarian.

Because Democrats are trying to pass the Build Back Better bill without Republican support, they need to conform to stricter Senate rules that allow them to bypass a potential filibuster and approve the legislation with 50 votes and Vice President Harris’s tiebreaker.

Despite the parliamentarian’s refusals to accept immigration provisions in that process, many advocates still see the piecemeal strategy as the best possible vehicle to include any sort of broad immigration benefits for undocumented immigrants.