The Latino population has exploded over the past few decades. The 2010 US Census points to a demographic explosion in the state from 192,921 (3.6 of the state) in the year
2000 to 336,056 (6%) in 2010, or a 74.2% increase. In the City of Milwaukee the
Latino population increased to 108,007 or 17.3% of the City. This constitutes a growth of more than 44%. In the public schools of the city, Latino enrollment is now at 24%.
In Milwaukee County alone, the Latino population increased to 129,039 (13.3%). In the US, 17.1% of Latinos age 65 and older live in poverty. In Wisconsin, over 9,000 Latinos are 65 and older of which more than 2,000 live in poverty.
A breakdown of ethnic and other population characteristics has not yet been released for the 2010 US Census. However, in the past few years, the PEW Hispanic Center and the
US Census estimated that in Wisconsin 16% of Latinos live in poverty; 34% were foreign born; the mean age was 24; 31% and 69% of native and foreign born, respectively, had less than a high school diploma; 74% of Latinos are citizens; 31% speak English less than very well (68% of the foreign born); 38% of the foreign born entered the US after 2000; housing needs for a growing population of Latino elderly has increased; and, among Latinos, there is a greater need for access to food and health.
Because of this, the need for bilingual services has increased; and so has the need for
effective advocacy that functions to eradicate disparities and inequalities in the social condition of Latinos when compared with other populations.
Disparities and inequalities are most pronounced in areas that, by now, should have been
eradicated. Why do they still persist? It would be extremely naïve not to see that race, ethnicity, and language, when they interplay with the economy and power, are at the very heart, unfortunately, of how and why people of color, are treated differently and have less access to resources and social benefits and opportunities.
We need to change this situation. We need to do away with social inequality in the Milwaukee area which retards the progress of Latinos and African American, the two largest minority groups, as well as inequality that affect others. Disparities in wage earning and job accessibility are detrimental to the health of the community; and disparities in social treatment, housing, education and health are an expression of such inequality. From our perspective, they are also civil rights issues. Continually changing immigration practices and law also require our advocacy locally and nationally.
In the case of Latinos, we need, both, services and programs that address their needs and their desires for greater social integration and self-sufficiency; and we need advocacy, that ensures more enlightened policies, laws and legislation that are more equal in purpose and outcomes.
Centro Hispano is committed to these purposes, especially in the areas where Latinos suffer the most from social disparities and inequalities. In our democracy, there should not be social inequities, and everyone should have access to the opportunities that move us from poverty and despair to a better life. Advocacy must be local, state, and national, and Centro Hispano is involved in all these areas. Currently, it is affiliated with various local and state organizations and the National Council of La Raza (it serves as its lead advocacy affiliate in Wisconsin). The Council also works closely with the U.S. Department of Justice; the U.S. Department of Labor; the U.S. Department of Education; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and, it helps to coordinate White House listening sessions in Milwaukee.