Earlier today, I was on a press call with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and she and her chief economist discussed some new statistics on Latinos in the workforce. She was also joined by Cecilia Muñoz, the director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House. Here are some key stats that were shared:
- In 2010, Latinos represented 15% of the workforce.
- Latinos who are working are less likely to have a college degree than their white and African-American counterparts.
- 8/10 Hispanics work in the private sector.
- The average weekly wage for Hispanic men is $560 and for Hispanic women is $508.
- 6.3% of Hispanics are self-employed, and Hispanic owned businesses are among the fastest growing.
- The average unemployment for Hispanics was 12.5% in 2010 — it declined slightly in February to 11.6%.
Secretary Solis also said that the Department of Labor (DOL) is working to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce work and labor rules. She also stressed that more definitely needs to be done to get Latinos back to work and to educate our young people in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), as jobs in these sectors are higher paying.
Secretary Solis also announced an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with DHS that would stop ICE from investigating work sites where DOL already has an open investigation. This will allow DOL to inform ICE about the information that it has and will ensure that ICE doesn’t misrepresent itself and say that it is acting in a “labor” capacity. The goal of this MOU is to be more efficient and to cut down on duplication efforts between both agencies.
Because the MOU involved DHS, some questions about immigration reform were brought up on the call, and Cecilia Muñoz reiterated that President Obama will enforce current immigration laws and just because the immigration system is broken that he will not choose to selectively enforce immigration laws. Muñoz did acknowledge that with a population of 10-11 million undocumented people that there will be some unfortunate situations where families do get separated, but this is the reason why the administration is pushing for a legislative solution to the problem.
Overall, this call was informative and refreshing because Secretary Solis talked about what she was scheduled or expected to speak about, unlike my other interaction with a certain Latino elected official earlier this week. It is unfortunate that the White House is seemingly putting the immigration reform charge back in the Congress, which is especially challenging in this climate, but this has been the pattern with the Obama White House — letting Congress take the initial stab at any huge policy change. If you think back to the Bush days, President Bush did a lot by running around the Congress and avoiding oversight.