Remarks by Vice President Harris at the UnidosUS 2023 Annual Conference

Remarks by Vice President Harris at the UnidosUS 2023 Annual Conference

Chicago, Illinois 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Janet Murguía!  (Applause.)

Good afternoon, everyone.  Please have a seat.  Good afternoon.

President Janet Murguía, I — I thank you for that introduction and for the years of our friendship and work together.  It really means more than I can express.  You and I also share so many things in common, including our love of our family, our love of our community, and our love of our country.  I thank you so very much, Janet.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And I must also say that Janet Murguía has been an extraordinary partner to President Biden and to our administration and to the members of our administration, including the most honorable Xavier Becerra, who is here — (applause) — and Miguel Cardona, who is here.  (Applause.)  And so I want to thank them all. 

And I also ran into Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, and I want to recognize your leadership on so many important issues.  (Applause.)

So it is good to be with all the friends this afternoon.  And I don’t need to tell you: The power of Unidos is the power of the coalition, recognizing that diversity in our nation is not a weakness or an afterthought but instead our greatest strength — that we all have so much more in common than what separates us and that when we as a society come together, work together, fight in common cause for fundamental values, it is our patriotism that fuels us.

Written on the seal on the front of this podium is “E Pluribus Unum.”  Out of many, one.

That is who we are, and it is a founding principle of our nation.  So when we, together, fight in coalition for the freedom, rights, and justice of all people, that is an act of patriotism.

When we celebrate our diversity and recognize that unity is our strength, we then build a stronger nation, a stronger democracy, and a stronger world.

This organization was founded — I don’t need to tell most of the people here — in Arizona in 1968 at the height of the Civil Rights movement.

The founders of this organization had a mission to empower Latinos economically, politically, and socially, and to do so by uniting communities and seeking common ground, a vision shared by many at that time.

In fact, it was two years before the organization was founded that Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sent a telegram to Cesar Chavez.  In it, he — in it, he wrote of the Farm Workers movement — (applause) — quote — indeed.  UFW. 

He wrote — Dr. King wrote, “Our separate struggles are really one.”  One.  “A struggle for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity.”  (Applause.)

Dr. King and Cesar Chavez understood the power of the coalition.  And I will tell you, as part of my personal story, that that approach to the common struggle influenced me at a young age.

As many of you know, I grew up in neighborhoods of hardworking people in Oakland and Berkeley, California.  (Applause.)  And I was raised — my sister, Maya, and I were raised by parents who met while they were protesting for civil rights.

They would take me with them to the marches; I was in a stroller at the time.  But from the beginning of my life, I saw the power of standing in solidarity, be it a protest or a picket line. 

And so, it was natural that from the earliest stages of my elected career, that I would work closely, as Janet mentioned, with what was then called NCLR and was, by then, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States.  (Applause.)

And so, in partnership with many here, back when I was District Attorney of San Francisco, I prosecuted contractors who stole wages and denied benefits to the workers, many of whom were monolingual immigrants.  (Applause.)

As Attorney General of California during the foreclosure crisis, as Janet mentioned, Latino homeowners were being victimized by predatory lending practices.  And I fought the big banks to keep people in their homes.  And as a result of our work together, we secured $20 billion from those banks for California’s homeowners.  (Applause.) 

And then we, together with your support, wrote the nation’s first Homeowner Bill of Rights to protect the rights of working families.

As a United States senator, I was proud to stand with Unidos as we held private lenders accountable — those lenders accountable for charging Latino students higher interest rates on their student loans.

And, of course, at the height of the pandemic, side by side, we fought for the safety and dignity of frontline workers.

And then, in 2020, of course, Unidos organized, mobilized, knocked on doors, sent postcards and text messages, posted on social media, and made millions of phone calls in states like Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, and helped register more than 120,000 new voters. (Applause.)

And in large part because of that work in that election, we saw record turnout, including record turnout by younger voters, which, of course, elected Joe Biden President of the United States and elected me Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)

And think about what our work together and our progress together has meant to so many people in just the past two and a half years.

Before we took office, many will remember, small businesses were struggling, factories were closing, and across our nation, millions of people were out of work.

Since President Biden and I took office, we have created 13 million new jobs, including 800,000 new manufacturing jobs.  (Applause.)

Latino unemployment reached the lowest level on record.  (Applause.)

And we invested billions in community banks — a passion of mine — to make sure that we provide access to capital for our small businesses.

And as a result of that work, we have seen more small businesses created in the last two years than any other two-year period in history — growth, by the way, that is being led by Latinas, who are the fastest-growing group of small-business owners in America.  (Applause.)

Before the President and I took office, our seniors had to make the impossible decision between either putting food on the table or filling their prescription.  And as we know, Latinos are 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.  So, President Biden and I capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for our seniors.  (Applause.) 

And we finally gave Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices.  (Applause.)  Many said it couldn’t be done.  We did it.  And made sure that seniors won’t pay more than $2,000 a year for their medicine. 

All of this is part of our blueprint together for what America can be.  This is Bidenomics: a plan to invest in America and build a future in which all people can truly thrive.

And so, all of this to then say: The leaders in this room helped to make this progress possible.  And so, I am here first and foremost to say thank you.  And I am here to say: We have more work to do.

For example, on our first day in office, the first bill President Biden introduced was for immigration reform.  And while we will fight to support immigrants and to protect DACA recipients, there is no substitute for action by Congress.

Congress must create a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, individuals with Temporary Protected Status, and for farmworkers.  (Applause.)

And we must also look ahead to understand the other challenges of the moment we are in: a moment when extremist so-called leaders have a blueprint to attack hard-won freedoms and rights and to do it state by state as part of their national agenda.

Across our nation, extremist so-called leaders demonize, target, and attack immigrants.

In Florida, they just passed SB 1718, a law designed to make people live in fear.  A law that makes people afraid to even receive care at a hospital because they fear they will be asked about their immigration status and worry they could be separated from their families and be deported.

In Texas, we see reports that authorities have pushed children and pregnant women who crossed the Rio Grande back into the river; people who refuse to provide water to other human beings who are in deadly 100-degree heat.  Inhumane, outrageous, and un-American.

And their blueprint goes beyond attacks on immigrants.  Because, of course, last year, we know the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in our land, took a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America, from the women of America.

And on this issue, let us be clear: One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree that the government should not be telling her what to do with her body.  (Applause.)

Today, in states across our nation, extremists also attack the freedom to vote.  They passed laws to ban drop boxes, to limit early voting, and to make it illegal to offer food and water to people who are standing in line for hours simply to exercise their civic duty and cast their ballot.

In this moment, we see our friends and neighbors being targeted because of who they are and who they love.

And we witness the United States Supreme Court strike down affirmative action, give businesses the right to discriminate, and deny student debt relief to millions of Americans.

All of this, by the way, when a heartbreaking one in five Americans has lost a family member to gun violence, and when the number one cause of death for our children is gun violence, and they simply refuse to pass reasonable gun safety laws to keep our children safe.

And while this violence, of course, impacts all communities, we also know it does not do so equally, when Latino Americans are twice as likely to be victims of gun homicides.

But, again, instead of passing reasonable gun safety laws, these extremists suggest teachers should just strap on a gun in their classroom.

This on top of an agenda to ban books and to prevent students from learning our true and full history. 

Can you imagine — book bans in this year of our Lord 2023?

And for these extremists, that was not enough.  They now push forward revisionist history, they push propaganda, they suggest that enslaved people benefited from slavery — as they insult us in an attempt to gaslight us.

Well, we will not have it.  We will not have it.  (Applause.)

Unidos, history helps teach us where we come from to guide us to move forward.

So, in this moment, let us recall the history of this very organization.  Let us remember 2010, in Arizona, when extremists passed SB 1070, the “Show Me Your Papers” bill.  And extremist so-called leaders, like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, rushed to target immigrants and families, to sow fear, and spread hate.

Well, this organization, with so many others, joined to organize, advocate, and go to court.  Together, this organization helped overturn the most discriminatory sections of that law.  (Applause.)

And I raise that example because I do believe that in the face of dark moments, the history of this organization has helped to shine a light on our path. 

Like Unidos did in Arizona, I know, going forward, that this group of leaders will always lead the people of our country to come together, will always stand in refusal to those who would try and divide us, that we will never be distracted by those attempts to divide us, and that we will stay focused on a commitment to stand united.

And I do believe, then, what — you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for.

So, Unidos, let us stand together in the fight to institute national paid family and medical leave, to pass pay equity, affordable childcare — (applause) — stand in the fight to renew the assault weapons ban, to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade, to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, and to finally pass immigration reform.  (Applause.)

Let us stand together, knowing: When we fight, we win.

May God bless you, and God bless America.  (Applause.)

END

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/07/24/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-at-the-unidosus-2023-annual-conference/

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