Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s been nearly fifty years since the United States has been celebrating this observance annually. By passage of Public Law 100-402 in 1988, the U.S. Congress authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation to designate the period from September 15 through October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month. Presidents have acquiesced to the Congressional demands and issued proclamations. President Obama issued a proclamation this year where he asks “public officials, educators, librarians, and all Americans to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.”
After multiple White House administrations have issued these proclamations, they’ve gotten complacent with this task. In fact, it seems like the current White House has delegated this function to its second-string squad. A vivid example of this point is the 2013 White House Proclamation on National Hispanic Heritage Month.
The 2013 proclamation included the following language: “Whether our ancestors crossed the Atlantic in 1790 or the Rio Grande in 1970 …” What are they talking about? Just on September 17, 2013, we celebrated the 226th anniversary of our Framers’ signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. So, how could our ancestors have crossed the Atlantic in 1790? Were the Framers of the U.S. Constitution extraterrestrial aliens? Don’t tell me someone messed up the Hispanic Proclamation!!
In addition, are Hispanics considered only those who crossed the Rio Grande? What about all those others Hispanics who came from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America?
I’m confused! Didn’t our ancestors come over from Spain in 1492? Moreover, we celebrated a very important event in the history of our Nation in April 2013 — the 500th anniversary of Don Juan Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida. I would think that this important feat would have been mentioned in the 2013 proclamation. It wasn’t!
I and other Hispanics, including some with their own radio shows, brought this disgrace to the attention of the White House Office that issued the 2013 proclamation — with the thought that they would issue a correction. They ignored our requests, and, the uncorrected 2013 proclamation remains posted on the White House webpage. To White House officials, Hispanics are a toothless tiger.
I) So, the question that Hispanics should be asking themselves is “IS THERE ANYTHING TO CELEBRATE IN 2014?”
Hispanics have nothing to celebrate in 2014. President Obama, his Cabinet, and political appointees have ignored addressing the Hispanic challenge since 2008.The President broke his promise to promulgate executive action by the end of the summer of 2014 to grant deportation relief to at least 3 million undocumented immigrants.
Some of you would say that a promise is a promise! There are no two ways to go about it! I think that our 44th President should look up to the two Roosevelts (Teddy and Franklin).They delivered every time by claiming that the “only thing to fear was fear itself.” President Obama has done very little to address the Hispanic underrepresentation challenge in the federal workforce and the Senior Executive Service level. Instead, the White House brags about the number of Hispanics that it has appointed to political positions. But the real challenge is not with the political appointees. It is with Hispanics appointed to permanent, career positions who remain in the federal workforce after there is a change in White House occupants.
A good question to ask is whether Hispanics who occupy political appointments have taken any positive steps to ameliorate the Hispanic underrepresentation at their federal agencies. You will be surprised to learn that the answer is that they have done very little or nothing at all to make a difference. This issue is not on most of their radars, GPS devices, or Blackberries.
And to make matters worse, the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers keeps choosing national themes that ignore the urgency of the Hispanic challenge. Themes like “Hispanics: Serving and Leading our Nation with Pride and Honor,” while true, do not shine a spotlight on the urgency of the Hispanic challenge which the White House has ignored and continues to ignore.
II) The next question to ask is “WHAT SHOULD HISPANICS DO TO BRING ATTENTION TO THEIR CHALLENGE?”
1) Stop the margaritas, mojitos, chimichangas, and chips-and-salsa happy hours. This is not a time for celebrations.
2) Stop the galas, unless they are honoring individuals who have done something meaningful to address this challenge.
3) Select national themes that bring attention to the challenge.
4) Have national Hispanic organizations stop their practice of hosting workshops to teach Hispanic applicants how to prepare their application packages when applying for federal vacancies. The challenge is not the quality of their application packages. The challenge is that most federal managers are not interested in hiring Hispanic applicants.
4) Demand that the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment must advise the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to ask the White House to issue an executive order that addresses the Hispanic underrepresentation challenge in the federal workforce. Now and not three months before the President’s term ends!
The members of this Council, which was created on February 11, 2011, and which is currently co-chaired by the OPM Director and the Chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), have requested repeatedly for the White House to issue said executive order.
If the Hispanic Council continues to ignore the wishes of its members on this matter, the NHLA should arrange a press conference to announce its decision to step down from the Council in protest and to take up the challenge by itself to the White House.
5) Demand that the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment uploads the minutes of its meetings on the OPM webpage. While OPM e-mails the minutes of Council meetings to its members, Hispanics and other interested parties who are unable to attend these meetings are left in the dark. With an Administration that values transparency so highly, this is unacceptable.
Regardless of what the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which serves as the basis for the creation of the Hispanic Council, says, OPM should do the right thing by publishing these minutes. This is the only way that Hispanics have a record of what took place at these meetings, what OPM officials promised, and what its members asked for.
6) If there is one thing that the events in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as the revelations in the Ray Rice incident, demonstrate is the power of the media outlets to get the public’s attention. The CNN coverage has been impressive in this regard. How about getting Hispanic organizations like LULAC, NCLR, and MALDEF to host a press conference(s) at the National Press Club or in front of OPM to highlight the current Hispanic challenge? In addition, double-up and bring along Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson and others to write stories for the Washington Post and other national newspapers. Naturally, CNN should not hold a monopoly on this event. Other media outlets, from Telemundo to Univision, should be invited to participate.
7) Convince the President that it is in this Nation’s well-being to have a foreign policy that fully engages our neighbors to the South.
8) Make it clear to the White House that regardless of whether the Democrats keep control of the U.S. Senate after the mid-term elections, Hispanics expect the President to address the immigration challenge and keep his promise.
It is time for President Obama to pay attention to the Hispanic challenge. It will not go away. It will only get worse. It is time for President Obama to stop being the “Deporter-in-Chief” and become “El Amigo de los Hispanos!”