Buenas tardes. Good afternoon.
Thank you for being here today as we commemorate the 153rd anniversary of the great victory in Puebla. This celebration does not only recognize the heroic actions of our soldiers lead by General Ignacio Zaragoza, which Ambassador Estivill just touched upon, but it serves as a reminder of its ultimate outcome: the great friendship of Mexico and the United States.
Our countries’ bilateral relationship and interactions exceed all expectations, and surpass any other relationship between two countries in the world. Bilateral trade between Mexico and the US reached over $534 billion dollars in 2014. Mexico represents the first or second export market for 25 out of the 50 states in the US. During President Peña and Obama’s Administration, our relationship has reached new heights. Through the High Level Economic Dialogue; the Mexico-US Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research; and the Mexico-U.S. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council; we have been working together to make sure that our interactions increase the competitiveness of our region as a whole, and benefits our communities on both sides of the border.
We cannot think about Mexico and the Unites States without talking about our shared history and the close ties between our communities. In this sense, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration that recognizes the ever-growing contributions that Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have made to this great country.
Now, more than ever, leaders, policymakers and society in the United States should be aware that there is no way to thrive without acknowledging the fact that immigrants in this country contribute to its economy and society. Only by promoting their better integration, the United States will be able to grow to its full potential.
Many states in the US have seen the positive impact immigrants have in their communities and have worked to make sure society benefits from their contributions. Today, 16 states allow undocumented immigrants to go to college offering them in-state tuition rates; 12 states allow immigrants to apply for a driver´s license; and many other local governments have sent a message of compassion towards immigrants and common sense by forbidding local authorities to collaborate with immigration enforcement. All these measures contribute to closing the gap of rights between immigrants and citizens, and translate into important economic, security and civic participation benefits for local communities as a whole.
The executive actions on immigration announced by President Barack Obama on November 20th, 2014 are sound efforts to integrate immigrants to the American community. They have the potential to protect families from the heavy burden of separation and distance. Just as the Battle of Puebla, this may not be the final victory but these actions have given hope to the immigrant community. Moreover, the outcomes of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, should encourage us to continue working together. As many of you know, between August 2012 and December 2014, over 600,000 applicants have been accepted to the DACA program. Only 1% of the applications have been denied, showing the quality of the applicants and community efforts. It is also worth noting that DACA is still in place and eligible youth should apply and the recipients should renew it. Our consular network has not ceased its efforts to support Mexican youth across the country.
Among the beneficiaries of DACA are the Dreamers, immigrants who aspire to achieve the American Dream. They have known no other home except the United States, and just as any other American citizen, want the freedom to do great things. It is our firm belief that this program is the beginning of a much greater path our countries share together. That, in the future, DACA can reach millions of Hispanic immigrants who want to invest in a life in the United States.
But there is more to be done. A comprehensive immigration reform that responds to the needs of the 21st century can bring prosperity to this great country, its immigrants and the entire region. It is in the interests of our governments and our peoples to preserve this mutually beneficial relationship.
But immigration reform cannot be only about its economic benefits, it’s more than anything a humane issue. We should never forget in immigration we are talking about families, about hard-working parents who have come to this country to provide a better life for their loved ones, immigrants who want to be able to live, work and study without fear and to contribute more to their communities.
There are elements of American society that espouse the notion that immigration is somehow harmful, that it erodes the social and economic fabric of the United States. There is nothing further from the truth. Today we can see how an improved migration framework that meets the requirements of a global market could boost economic growth and prosperity in the United States and throughout the North American region. Moreover, we have witnessed unprecedented support from within the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, statistics on the views of immigration, when asked how to handle the current situation of undocumented Immigrants in the United States, 71% responded that there should be a way for undocumented immigrants to stay legally.
Contemporary events have a tendency to contort the perspective to view only the events of the moment. It is too easy to forget history and how it has shaped the fate of nations. For many Mexican families in the late 1800s, they did not cross the border, the border crossed them as said by former Surgeon General, Antonia C. Novello.
This evening we have living examples of the success of immigration and the relevance of our shared history upon this stage. By sharing a binational identity, our honorees are able to see the ways in our nations and our people have come together. But a legacy is not something that comes only from history; it is also created by the men and women of today.
Eva Longoria and Javier Palomarez are not only successful professionals; their commitment to the advancement of the Hispanic community makes them recognized leaders. They are both aware of the needs of the community and work hard towards increasing awareness and opportunities.
Eva Longoria, please step forward.
Eva has such a legacy; her ancestors have lived in Texas since the earliest days of our respective countries. And yet she still holds to her Mexican heritage and works for Latinos everywhere.
Not only is she an incredible actress and producer, but she has made it her goal to empower and educate young Latinas. The Eva Longoria Foundation offers programs that encourage young women to pursue an education; the Foundation also offers support services to increase educational attainment among Latinas. Eva works tirelessly to make sure that Latinas live up to their full potential. By supporting women entrepreneurs through microloans and training, the Foundation seeks to empower them and impact their quality of life.
But she has not stopped there. Recognizing the importance that civic engagement and political empowerment has for our community, she co-founded the Latino Victory Project which seeks to increase political participation of Hispanics in the US.
Eva has also been recognized as an important philanthropist and co-founded “Eva’s Heroes” which support young adults with disabilities and is the spokesperson of the program “Padres Contra el Cancer” which supports families of children
For the tireless work in favor of the empowerment of the Hispanic community in the United States, I now present Eva Longoria with the National Ohtli Award.
Javier Palomarez, please step forward.
Javier embodies an entrepreneurial spirit and indefatigable will to succeed. His example through successful business practices has inspired and motivated us all.
As President and CEO of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Javier has promoted programs to help Hispanic women and youth to develop their businesses. With this work not only Hispanics can aspire to a better future for them and their families, but also contribute more to their place of residence.
As a self-made man, who had to struggle to get an education and later became one of the most respected Hispanic businessmen in this country, Javier sets an example for all Latinos that everything is possible through hard work and dedication.
His outstanding trajectory in the business sector, commitment to pursue strategies to promote the growth and economic development of the Hispanic community, have made him worthy to be recognized as one of the 100 most influential Latino leaders in the US.
For the tireless work in favor of the empowerment of the Hispanic community in the United States, I now present Javier Palomarez with the National Ohtli Award.
Both Eva and Javier have shown us the great contributions that Latinos can make to this country and society if we work together for a greater goal. We have to take advantage of the great opportunity that the demographic shift offers to Hispanics in this country. By 2050, the US will have a Hispanic “majority-minority”. According to a Pew Hispanic Center study, 800,000 young Hispanics turn 18 every year. Those young people will represent 40% of the total electorate growth by 2030.
It is now our responsibility to make sure that this demographic change is reflected in increasing opportunities for our community and better chances for integration. And what better way to integrate and contribute with rights and obligations than through citizenship. We acknowledge the leadership of President Obama on creating the Task Force on New Americans, as well as the continued work of agencies like US Citizenship and Immigration Services to ensure that immigrants are able to better integrate and benefit from acquiring citizenship. In this sense, we are committed to working with each and every one of you to ensure that the 3.5 million Mexican legal permanent residents in the US are informed about the benefits of naturalization in terms of employment, education and civic participation, along with the full responsibilities that come with acquiring citizenship.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, it is only with full recognition of our close community ties and working together to reduce the gap of rights between citizens and immigrants that we will be able to prosper together.
Change, when it comes from within, has the potential to bring a society together and forward as has been seen in the history of Mexico and the United States. It was a change not impelled by autocrats, foreigners, or a self-appointed elite, but reforms, and surpassed difficulties that brought liberty and opportunity to both of our nations. A message so inspiring that it drew millions from around the world. Immigrants who share the values we cherish and have been brought together with a love of freedom and the natural rights of man. It is with solemn remembrance that I conclude this speech: ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!