NEW JERSEY. Oct 11, 2022 (By Senator Bob Menendez) — Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate — whether it’s the diversity of our traditions, the towering accomplishments of our fellow Latinos, or the growing influence of our community in every facet of American society. It is about coming together as one big family, a familia worth uplifting through the bonds that connect us and the history that inspires us.
We are a family that is 62 million strong — contributing more than $2.8 trillion to the U.S. economy. If we were a country, we’d be comparable to the national gross domestic product of nations like the United Kingdom and India. But we are also a family with roots that are older than the first English settlements in Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. We have served in every major conflict of our nation’s history since the Revolutionary War. And the stories we tell, of Latino servicemembers and veterans, are stories of patriotism and honor, especially those whose sacrifices have paved the way for our democratic way of life.
For many, to be Latino in the United States means growing roots in this new land, while maintaining ties to our home countries in our hearts. Whether we come from the furthest tip of South America or from the border communities along the Rio Grande Valley, our bonds unite us in the words of our national motto: E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one.
We may come from all over, but we are filled with the same love for family and commitment to strengthening the promise of America. I know this first hand from my own mother Evangelina, who had an unbreakable spirit, working hard so I could accomplish my American Dream. Her example gave me the strength and confidence to run for office, becoming the first Hispanic mayor of Union City, the first Latino elected to the New Jersey State Assembly, and the first Latino to represent my home state in Congress.
I am immensely proud of these accomplishments, but I have always felt that being the first is not much of an achievement if there are not others who follow after you. And so for me, the story of Hispanic Heritage Month cannot be told without taking a look at how far we have come.
This month, we honor the contributions of our community not only with words but with concrete results achieved under our current Democratic majority in Congress. From passing landmark bills like the American Rescue Plan to the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to the recent Inflation Reduction Act, we are making historic investments in underserved communities around the country, including many that are majority Latino. We secured health care benefits for thousands of Latino families covered under the ACA, tackled the existential threat posed by climate change that severely affects our families, capped the cost of insulin for abuelas and abuelos, and lowered everyday costs for millions of Latino families. And under President Biden’s leadership, nearly half of all Latino student debt will be erased.
And yet, despite this progress, we continue to confront systemic inequities that affect our community, strive to improve representation across all sectors, from the highest levels of government to America’s corporate boardrooms, and resolve to finally deliver humane and inclusive immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
As we approach the end of this year’s celebration, in which we honored our rich heritage and the undeniable contributions we have made to the fabric of American society, we recommit ourselves this Hispanic Heritage Month to making sure that all Latinos can prosper and get ahead. And beyond this one-month celebration, we must raise our voices every day, in every facet of life in America, to ensure that our children and grandchildren in Latino communities all across the country can fully realize the promise of the American Dream.