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Obama: A Champion for All?

In addition, the Hispanic groups seek to restore full food stamp benefits to legal immigrants and fight any attempts to establish a national voter identification program that could prevent older Hispanics, who are less likely to hold driver’s licenses or other required types of identification, from casting votes. Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Dakota require voters to provide a government-issued photo identification before they can vote, and anti-immigrant groups want to extend the measures nationwide.

Off and Running
MALDEF attorney Peter Zamora is heartened by the first steps taken by Obama and the new Congress. Congress approved and Obama signed a bill to broaden the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which covers children in families who can’t afford health care but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor. Under the new law, states can extend SCHIP and MEDICAID coverage to newly arrived legal immigrant children and pregnant women.

Another good first step, Zamora says, is passage of another of Obama’s priorities, the so-called Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law reverses a Supreme Court decision that makes it more difficult for workers to file claims based upon unlawful wage discrimination. While Ledbetter’s claim of discrimination was based on gender, Zamora says the legislation would help Hispanic workers who are victims of unlawful wage discrimination.

LULAC’s Rosales says Obama’s nomination of several Hispanics to his Cabinet is an indication that he wants to reach out to Hispanics. Rosales is especially pleased with Obama’s choice of California Rep. Hilda Solis, whom Rosales says is "very much a community person," to head the Labor Department.

But hope is tempered by political pragmatism—all White House initiatives will be constrained by the growing budget deficit. Some will be altered, or even rejected, by Congress. Still, says Rosales, "I think the Obama administration will listen to us."

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