As we celebrate the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, our country is reminded of the crucial role Hispanic or Latino communities have in American society. To celebrate this month is to honor the promise of this country to be a nation that welcomes immigrants and provides opportunities for everyone to succeed.
I’m proud that under my leadership, our Democratic Senate majority honors Latino families not just this month but every day by championing legislation that makes their lives better.
Just in the last few months, Senate Democrats have passed a string of historic bills that address longstanding inequality and injustice faced by communities of color. From gun reform and legislation to boost semiconductor manufacturing and address inflation, to building a diverse judicial bench and—most recently—fighting to make student debt relief a reality, Democrats in Congress and the Biden Administration have delivered for working families.
For far too long, Brown and Black communities have disproportionately suffered the consequences of gun violence. Notably, Latinos are twice likely to die by gun homicide and four times as likely to be wounded by an assault with a gun as white people. A few months back, the Senate worked to enact into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first major gun safety bill in thirty years.
The law establishes protections for victims of domestic violence, invests in mental health services, and provides funding for school safety. While this is not a cure-all for all the ways gun violence affects our nation, it is a long-overdue step in the right direction that addresses everyday gun violence and tragedies that have directly impacted Latino families, such as the mass shootings in Uvalde and El Paso, Texas.
The CHIPS and Science Act—the bill to lower costs, increase manufacturing, invest in science, and help fix the semiconductor crisis— was another bipartisan achievement. Dedicated work by Senate Democrats resulted in legislation that will keep jobs in America and build a diverse STEM workforce where Latinos can not only participate in but lead.
As these two examples demonstrate, Senate Democrats are always ready to strive for coalition building and bipartisanship. But when senseless opposition stands in the way of helping working families, Democrats are not afraid to get it done on their own. This was the case with the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that will endure as one of the greatest legislative feats in decades by: lowering costs, creating millions of good-paying jobs, and becoming the boldest climate bill ever.
This legislation will be life-changing for Latino families, particularly in the prescription drugs and climate fronts.
First off, the IRA puts a price cap to the cost of insulin at $35 per month for people on Medicare. Latinos are more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic white people and lose $40.9 billion a year on treatment and lost wages. Giving Medicare the power to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs will save lives and protect people’s pockets. Other critical provisions, including an extension of the Affordable Care Act subsidies which help lower health care costs for Latino families, are also part of the bill.
In the climate piece, the IRA addresses the inevitable reality that Latinos and Blacks disproportionately bear the consequences of changes to the environment. Through environmental justice grants, programs to reduce air pollution, and the expansion of clean energy tax credits, low-income communities and communities of color stand to receive long-sought environmental justice and reap the benefits of a thriving green economy.
Aside from legislation, Senate Democrats have also worked towards making our court system look more like the rest of the country. In less than two years, this Senate has confirmed more women, people of color, women of color, Black women, and Hispanic nominees to lifetime positions on the federal bench than in under four years under Donald Trump. Under my leadership, 21% of judges confirmed are Hispanic or Latino, up from 5% under the last administration.
On top of nominating diverse judges, President Biden recently gave tens of millions of Americans a new lease on life by cancelling significant amounts of student debt. For the past two years, I and many others have repeatedly stated that with the simple flick of a pen, President Biden could lower costs for millions of Americans by canceling their student debt—and I’m glad he heeded our call!
Rather than helping the privileged few, this unprecedented action will lift up Americans from all walks of life: students of color, poor Americans, children of immigrants, working middle-class families. In fact, almost half of all Latino borrowers will see their entire debt canceled with the initial $10,000 loan forgiveness.
There’s a lot to celebrate this Hispanic Heritage Month, but Senate Democrats understand that the best way to honor Latinos and descendants of Latinos is through legislation that addresses long-standing racial and economic inequalities and improves their lives. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far for Latino families, but I know there’s much more left to do. As the Senator from New York—a state blessed with an enormous Latino population—and as the leader of the Senate, I will never stop fighting for Latino families and their right to succeed in this country.