Associated Press (January 26, 2009)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros said Monday he plans to create a nonprofit that will help integrate newcomers to U.S. society by improving their English and expanding their participation in military service and civic activities.
Cisneros, who served in the Clinton administration, said he hopes to launch the group this year to "proselytize" the significance of immigrants and "the absolutely invaluable role they'll play in the American future."
The group would team up with churches, schools and other nonprofits to offer a "life plan" on how people integrate into American society, he said. The plan would include showing parents how U.S. schools work and how they can help their children advance as well as promoting their responsibility in building the nation's future.
"We've got to get beyond just the basics of legalization and citizenship," Cisneros said.
Leaving 12 million people in the shadows and undocumented "is not what civilized country wants to do when it needs workers," he said.
Latinos make up 15 percent of the U.S. population and will make up a quarter of the population by 2050. Even if the nation's borders were closed, the Latino population in the U.S. is expected to grow because the population's families are younger and larger.
Cisneros said his effort dovetails with President Barack Obama's message of multicultural inclusion. He said he and Obama talked last year about the "aspirational" themes of the Hispanic population — better wages, educational achievement, health care and legalization.
Cisneros and several other high-profile Latinos argue in a new book, "Latinos and the Nation's Future," that the large numbers mean the advancement and global competitiveness of the country depends on the progress of the Latino population.
"Is America going to be populated by a population that is large but poor, undereducated, underproductive, alienated in due course for lack of opportunity?" he asked. "Or is it a going to be populated by a community that is large but has infused with the education and skills so that it is one of the contributors to the energy, the creativity the productivity of this country going forward?"