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vice president biden address hispanic caucus Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's 35th anniversary awards gala in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, September 13, 2012. (Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Election 2012: An Appeal to Hispanic Voters

Vice President Biden addresses Hispanic Caucus

By Hannah Prensky | null null , null

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday night, Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) at its 35th anniversary Awards Gala.

Every year, the gala draws more than 2,500 guests, including federal and local elected officials, corporate and nonprofit leaders, and celebrities. This year, the Vice President stepped in for President Barack Obama who has addressed this event in the past three years.

"You are about to become — and already have — the most powerful force in American politics," Biden told the cheering crowd.

Hispanics will continue to become part of a surge in growth of America's labor force in the coming decades. They will account for 60 percent of the nation's population growth between 2005 and 2050. This year in particular, both the Republican and the Democratic parties want their vote, with the Democrats holding a significant lead among Hispanic voters.

In his speech, the Vice President talked about numerous important issues in the 2012 presidential election.

One of the most important, Biden said, is education. Along with other speakers, Biden underlined the need for equal opportunity in education for the Latino children. Today almost 25% percent of all students K-12 are Hispanic children and 17% of the college students are Hispanic.

"The five founding members of the CHCI knew that the key is education, education, education," Biden said. "Education is the way up and the way out." He promised his party would continue to protect educational programs for Latino children.

Biden also spoke about immigration. He especially highlighted the President's efforts to help young Latinos who are illegally in the United States through no fault of their own by passing the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act has been stuck for years in Congress. But earlier this year, President Obama issued an executive order that gave certain young illegal immigrants the opportunity to stay in the U.S. Illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, have been in the country for five straight years, and pose no security threat are now allowed to stay in the country, get an education, work, and have access to social benefits without fear of deportation.

The Vice President also praised the contribution of the Hispanic community. "Three-hundred-thousand Hispanics, in great majority from the 9/11 generation, serve our country in the armed forces," he said.

He added that he presided over a citizenship oath ceremony in which 156 troops, mostly Hispanics, were sworn in as American citizens. "It was one of the greatest honors for me," Biden recalled.

Biden also reminded gala attendees that Obama has appointed Hispanic leaders to key positions in the government. For example, Hilda Solis serves in Obama's cabinet as the Secretary of Labor, and Sonya Sotomayor is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

When he wasn't laying out the Obama Administration's plans for a second term, Biden took jabs at the Republican Party and its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

"This isn't your father's Republican party," Biden said "As a matter of fact, it's not even Mitt Romney's father's Republican Party."

He explained that today's Republican Party is trying to prevent people from voting while also bent on rolling back social programs that help the poor, children, and Hispanics.

"[The Republican Party] pushes voter suppression all around the country, pushes budgets that would push hundreds of thousands of children out of early education, cuts back on Pell grants, [and] puts college out of reach for tens of thousands of qualified Hispanic children," Biden said.

Democrats currently have a big advantage over Republicans with Hispanic voters. But they have to ensure the Hispanic community will step up their efforts to get out the vote.

Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, reminded listeners that "we have to make sure people can exercise their right to vote and their votes are counted as cast."

"Your contribution has been incredible, but you ain't seen nothing yet," Biden added, amidst strong applause. "Exercise your power and vote and your country will be grateful."


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