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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Senator Saslaw Receives 2011 Leader Of The Year Award From Hispanic Alliance

Talks a Bold Talk On Immigration and Education

Last week Virginia senator Richard Saslaw received kudos from the Hispanic Leadership Alliance at their annual scholarship banquet where five Latino students were awarded college scholarships by the group started by Fairfax County educators.

Saslaw says he has been a strong advocate for immigrants.

Virginia senator, Richard Saslaw, accepts the '2011 Leader of the Year' award from the Hispanic Leadership Alliance.
Photo/CD Brown.
"This nation was raised by immigrants', said Saslaw. "If you take a look at all the technological advances in the last century, a lot of been made by immigrants."  Naming off a few contributors: Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, Edwin Teller, and the founder of Intel, Saslaw said "the list is endless."

However, the immigrants Saslaw was referring to weren't subjected to the interrogation that Latinos and other people of color have experienced in their relentless pursuit of liberty, freedom and justice here in America.

"If we had the same set of immigration laws in the 1920s and 30s that we have today, none of those people could get into this country", spoke Saslaw on the tactics used on Latinos.  Tactics that haven't been used on other immigrants (especially those void of melanin).

"People will always come where they think it's a better life", Saslaw said. "And we need to respect that."

Saslaw went on to talk about his Republican colleagues worried about the problems that illegal immigrants may cause.  "I realize that, but you don't sit there and try to criminalize a whole group of people."

Saslaw described the tactics of Republicans (at both State and Federal levels) as "trying to turn a political nickel at the expense of some group", and called it "unconscionable and reprehensible".

President Obama has pledged to the Latino community, having spoken with a group of prominent Latinos, at the White House , and again at a Texas school, to "fix the broken immigration system."

"We need an immigration policy that works; a policy that meets the needs of families and businesses while honoring our tradition as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws", the president remarked last year at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 33rd Annual Award Gala. 

"We need it for the sake of our economy, our security, and our future.  It may not be the easy thing to do politically.  But I didn’t run for President to do what’s easy.  I ran to do what’s hard.  I ran to do what’s right.  And when I think something’s the right thing to do, I think even my critics would have to admit I’m pretty persistent."

The president also signed an Executive Order to renew and enhance the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (so that it better serves communities across the country by engaging them in the process of improving the education of Latino students).

"There's nothing more important than that", said Saslaw to members of the HLA.  "It's pretty hard today to be successful without that college education.  Maybe one day we'll have a political system here in Virginia that will make that a whole lot easier than it is today."

Saslaw said he stopped bills in the Senate by Republicans that he described as "hostile" toward immigration, describing them "nothing to be proud of." 

"There were over thirty bills that were introduced and they were not helpful at all", explained Saslaw.  Bills that would not even allow anyone who was undocumented a seat in any Virginia college, even as an out-of-state applicant. Saslaw said he "killed all of the bills", except for the E-verify bill that allows employers to verify the status of hired employees.

Of the scholarship recipients on the evening - a total of five - all had GPAs of 3.5 or higher, despite overcoming their various circumstances.

Saslaw, whose grandfather was a Russian immigrant, said of Latinos, "they're hardworking people".  He said he was "encouraged" when he sees groups like the HLA.

"They give me a lot of hope."

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Growing by leaps and bounds.

The Hispanic population is growing by leaps and bounds. In his book Harvest of an Empire: A History of Latinos in America, Democracy Now host Juan Gonzalez, explains that before too long more Americans will be able to trace their roots from Latin America, instead of Europe.

The U.S. Census Bureau today released a 2010 Census brief on the nation's Hispanic population, which shows the Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010 and accounted for more than half of the total U.S. population increase of 27.3 million. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, or four times the nation's 9.7 percent growth rate.

Even Saslaw said of his district, which includes the areas of Prince William, Tysons, Stafford, Baileys Cross Roads, Falls Church, and Tysons Corner, that it's a "changing population".  The first twenty years he was in office, it was 96% white. "Now, it's majority minority."

Saslaw said we need to set "all these people on a path to citizenship."

The republican senator is up for re-election, and has already begun his campaign kickoff.

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