The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) was established in December 1976 by five Hispanic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives: Herman Badillo, Baltasar Corrada, E. “Kika” de la Garza, Henry Gonzalez, and Edward Roybal. The Caucus’s founding purpose was to serve as an organization “through which legislative action, as well as executive and judicial actions, could be monitored to ensure the needs of Hispanics were being met.”
Shortly after its creation, CHC criticized President Jimmy Carter for allegedly nominating too few Hispanics to posts within his administration. The nascent Caucus also worked to preserve bilingual education programs, increase voter registration among Hispanics nationwide, and help its own members obtain desirable committee assignments in Congress.
In 1978, three of CHC’s original members—Corrada, de la Garza, and Roybal—established the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute to serve not only as CHC’s nonprofit fundraising arm, but also as an educational entity that could administer programs beneficial to “the national Hispanic community.”
In the 1980s, CHC opposed President Reagan’s anti-Communist policies in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
During the George H.W. Bush administration, CHC members introduced the Hispanic Access to Higher Education Bill of 1991, which gave preference to “low-income, racial or ethnic minorities” in the awarding of education-related federal funds, and the Voting Rights Improvement Act of 1992, which made ballots and other voting-related materials available in multiple languages.
Between 1976 and the mid-1990s, CHC’s membership included both Democrats and Republicans who represented a wide array of political persuasions and agendas. As a result, the Caucus commonly failed to achieve unanimous consent on certain issues or pieces of legislation, thus preventing it from maximizing its power as a distinctive voting bloc rooted in ethnic identity politics. As Edward Roybal lamented in 1992, “the Hispanic Caucus can not take a united action because [it includes] Republicans.” But that state of affairs came to an end soon thereafter; CHC has not accepted a single Republican member since 1997.
In the Nineties as well, CHC maintained a cordial relationship with President Bill Clinton, who often consulted with the Caucus on proposed legislation. According to the 2013 book Hispanic Americans in Congress, CHC “leveraged Hispanic electoral support for Democrats into policy concessions and pressured [Clinton] to use his influence to counter Republican legislative initiatives, particularly on welfare reform.”
In late November 2012, the Communist Party USA announced that it planned to “cooperate and strengthen our relationship with the more progressive elements in the Democratic Party, such as the Progressive Caucus in the U.S. Congress … [as well as] the Congressional Black Caucus … [and] the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”
CHC has long called for comprehensive immigration reform that would include “a pathway to citizenship” for the millions of people currently residing in the U.S. illegally, “because having a second class of residents is contrary to the core values of our country.” By CHC’s telling, such individuals “are already contributing to and playing a role in our country,” and thus should be permitted “to finally come out of the shadows.” Moreover, CHC vehemently rejects the term “illegal aliens” as a “dated and dehumanizing” designation that has “taken on a highly negative connotation and perpetuate[s] the denigration of immigrant communities.”
For years, CHC has been a staunch supporter of DREAM Act legislation that would institute a pathway-to-citizenship as well as college tuition discounts for people who first migrated to the United States illegally as minors, and who are still younger than 35. The Caucus also backed the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) and “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents” (DAPA) programs that President Obama enacted via executive actions that were designed not only to stop the deportation of millions of illegal aliens, but also to make those aliens eligible for legal residency and work permits. In June 2017, CHC chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham claimed that President Donald Trump’s call for “revoking DAPA” was a “deceitful … effort to keep immigrant families” with “longstanding ties to our country” feeling “uncomfortable about their place in America.”
In 2017 as well, Ms. Grisham denounced an executive order in which President Trump had called for a temporary moratorium on immigration to America by people hailing from known hotbeds of terrorism in the Middle East. According to Grisham, Trump’s order “continues to jeopardize our national security and provide ISIS and other terrorists [with] the propaganda they desire to fuel future attacks against the U.S. and our allies.”
In November 2017, CHC rejected a request by Florida Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo, the son of Cuban exiles, to join its ranks. The Caucus said its decision was based on the fact that Curbelo did not share CHC’s core values—e.g., he had refused to sign on to the DREAM Act. “It is truly shameful [that] the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has decided to build a wall around the organization to exclude Hispanic-Americans who aren’t registered in the Democratic Party,” said Curbelo in response to CHC’s announcement. “This sends a powerful and harmful message of discrimination, bigotry, and division.”
To view a comprehensive list of CHC’s current members, click here.
For additional information on CHC, click here.
Further Reading: “About Us” (Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute); “Congressional Hispanic Caucus” (Keywiki.org); “Congressional Hispanic Caucus Denies Republican’s Request to Join, Remains All Democrats” (Washington Free Beacon, 11-16-2017); Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-2012 (Edited by Matthew A. Wasniewski et al., 2013); “CHC on Standards for Immigration Reform” (1-30-2014); “Democrats Are Trying To Stop Republicans From Forcing Library Of Congress To Use Term ‘Illegal Alien’” (Huffington Post, 5-16-2016).