On Thursday, October 22, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) hosted a forum in Washington, D.C. to bring to light the challenges that Latino youth are facing today. Addressing these issues now may be the only way to reverse years of a downward trend for the Latino community’s economic state.
At Thursday’s forum, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) stressed the importance of preparing Latino youth to compete in the job market of 2030. In order to do this, he explained, it is necessary to address such issues as economic security, unemployment, and neighborhood safety. Currently, the pressure to contribute to household income leads some students to end their studies prematurely. Poor job prospects fuel the economic troubles at home but also represent a disincentive to stay in school. Too often gangs and a life of crime offer a deceptive allure for youth who feel disenfranchised and hopeless.
Many in the Latino community also face the difficulties associated with discrimination and prejudice. Patricia Foxen, associate director of research at NCLR, explained that while 9 in 10 Latino children in the United States today were born in this country, they continue to be perceived as outsiders by many in society. This phenomenon affects their understanding of their legitimacy as Americans, while eroding pride in the narrative of their families’ struggle and culture. Therefore, considerable effort must be placed toward improving both the Latino and the non-Latino understanding of Americans of Latin America descent.
In regards to the gravity of the issue being discussed, NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía said: “Latino children are the future of this country. If they succeed, we all succeed, and if they fail we all fail, so today we hope to help lay the foundation for a comprehensive agenda for Latino children and youth that will nurture their enormous potential and create a better future for them and, in turn, for our Country. Our health, education, and juvenile justice systems are not serving Latino children and youth effectively, failing to adequately promote their health and well-being.”