John J. Dilulio Jr.:
But there is one politically salient issue concerning the nation’s large and growing Latino population that neither party’s leadership has fully acknowledged: Latino grassroots groups, neighborhood associations, and faith-based networks do remarkable and remarkably well-documented work, but these organizations may still be getting short shrift when it comes to federal funding and other support.
Consider, for example, recent reports by the National Alliance for Hispanic Families (NAHF), a coalition of more than 2,000 leaders and more than 300 organizations. Start with NAHF’s October 2012 report, La Diferencia: Grassroots Organizations Uniquely Serving Hispanic Communities through Culturally Relevant, Family Focused Programs. The report heralds how Latino civic organizations are typically led by individuals who live in the communities they serve; engage entire families rather than lone program beneficiaries; seek out traditionally underserved people; and partner with others in and out of the community that help them to benefit Latino families.
Next, peruse the December 2012 NAHF report, Beyond the Rhetoric: Improving Service to the Hispanic Community. The report suggests that the federal funding gap, like “the abysmal representation of Hispanics in the federal workforce,” reflects “decades of neglect of the Hispanic community.” Zeroing in on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF), an agency with a $50 billion annual budget, NAHF recommends targeting federal discretionary funds to address “unmet needs within the Hispanic community,” support “culturally relevant, linguistically appropriate” and “effective practices with Latino populations,” and ensure that federal grants that run through state government agencies respect “the eligibility of community and faith-based organizations serving Hispanic populations to compete for those funds.”
The civic case for supporting community-serving groups that preach and practice la diferencia is compelling, not least with respect to faith-based programs. For instance, many empirical studies conducted over the last two decades show that Latino congregations supply their own needy neighbors with a wide range of vital social services. And while, as the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data, organizations like Esperanza, a national network of more than 13,000 Latino clergy and congregations, have countless success stories to tell.
For instance, in Philadelphia, the local Esperanza network of neighborhood groups, businesses, and churches has expanded affordable housing (including for senior citizens); sponsored job training programs (it was once the only state-contracted such program in a Latino agency); launched a high school, a college, and other educational institutions and programs; and much more.
Esperanza’s president, Reverend Luis Cortes, offered the opening prayer at the 2013 presidential inaugural luncheon, and the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast this June will feature President Obama and leaders from both parties as guest speakers.
Of course, just because something is good for civic life, good policy, and good politics does not mean that it will happen. By or before Election Day 2016, will policymakers in both parties finally answer decades-old prayers for federal support that is commensurate with Latino grassroots groups’ proven capacities?
Espero que si. (I hope so.)