Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Latino issues should get presidential commission, profs say

The University of Denver Latino Center, in conjunction with Azteca America Fundación, released a preliminary report Aug. 25 on the state of Latinos that calls for a presidential commission on Latino issues.

Debora Ortega, a professor at DU’s Graduate School of Social Work, directs the University’s Latino Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship, an interdisciplinary group of faculty members who engage in scholarship, research and service for the benefit of the Latino community. Maria Salazar, a Latino Center member and professor at DU’s Morgridge College of Education, is the lead author on the report.

“We are proud of the Latino Center and pleased they are engaged in this important work with Azteca America Fundación in an attempt to address one of the great issues of the day,” says DU Chancellor Robert Coombe.

The full report will be released to Congress at a Sept. 23 Washington, D.C., event. The comprehensive study of Latino issues focuses on education, health care, the economy, immigration and the Latino vote.

Among the general findings are that Latino communities want to be self-sufficient and contribute to the U.S. society. However, Latinos face major challenges in accessing quality education, health care and economic services. And a lack of comprehensive immigration reform widens disparities and limits the future progress of the Latino community and the nation, according to the report.

The topics covered are of importance to the nation as a whole. However, the efforts take on special significance due to the high and growing number of Latinos in U.S public schools and their overrepresentation of Latinos in high school dropout rates.

Cultural and communication barriers for public services, such as health care, are costly to the nation in the near and long term. Although the state of the economy affects citizens across the nation, the housing downturn is especially difficult for the Latino community given its ties to the construction industry.

The report, “The State of Latinos 2008: Defining an Agenda for the Future,” is the result of exhaustive academic research and consultations with panelists at the State of Latinos event held in Denver on May 30 and follow up forums with local Latino leaders, including Sen. Ken Salazar.

“We’re looking forward to presenting the findings and policy recommendations to the camps of both Republican and Democratic candidates, as well as to key members of Congress and other policy makers in September,” says Luis Echarte, chair of Azteca America and Fundación Azteca America.

“A stronger Latino community means a stronger nation as a whole. It’s time to take the next step from diagnosis to action.”

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