Today, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that employers added 235,000 jobs in February, a hefty gain that far exceeded economists’ prediction of 190,000 jobs. Additionally, the national unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage points to 4.7 percent. The U.S. Federal Reserve says that he low rate, which has stayed under 5 percent since April 2016 indicates our economy is at or near full employment.
The Latino unemployment rate dropped by almost half a percentage point to 5.6 percent last month. An increase in construction appears to have spurred Latino employment. The industry added 58,000 jobs with the most growth in specialty trade contractors and heavy and civil engineering construction. While Latinos comprise nearly 1/3 of construction jobs, they are more likely to be in lower-wage labor positions.
This week in immigration: New toolkit released for schools to welcome immigrants and refugees; New York announces it will cover citizenship application fees for 2,000 immigrants; and Federal Reserve presidents call for immigration reform to boost the economy.
White House releases resources for educators on immigrant integration: In coordination with the White House’s announcement of “Bright Spots” on welcoming and expanding opportunity for Linguistic Integration and Education, the Department of Education released a guide for schools to support immigrants, refugees, and their families with a successful integration process. The Newcomer Toolkit provides information, resources and examples of effective practices that educators can use to support newcomers in our schools and communities. Lessons include understanding legal obligations to newcomers, providing welcoming schools and classrooms for newcomers and their families, and supporting students’ social emotional skills.
President Obama recently gave a speech in Arizona announcing a reduction in mortgage insurance premiums charged by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). This much-needed policy change will save homeowners with FHA loans an average of $900 a year on their mortgage payments while making the dream of homeownership more affordable and easier to reach for many Americans, including Latinos.
Unfortunately, the key message and potential benefits to hard-working Americans were lost following the announcement. Conservative policymakers were quick to invoke a deeply entrenched false narrative that attributes the collapse of the housing market to unqualified borrowers. For example, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R–Texas) released a statement calling the reduction in FHA premiums disappointing and warned against “the destructive cycle of boom, busts, and bailouts that poor decisions in Washington produce.
Regrettably, comments like this from Hensarling and others distract from the large body of evidence confirming that the foreclosure crisis was a result of unscrupulous lenders steering minority borrowers into costly subprime loans. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, studies by economists at the Federal Reserve, and a number of other independent investigations have all shown that the housing crisis stemmed from private-sector lenders chasing profits by producing large volumes of unsustainable loans without regard for borrowers. The Department of Justice reached historic settlements with large lenders charged with steering Black and Hispanic borrowers into predatory subprime products, even when these borrowers qualified for safer conventional mortgages. Additionally, a recent study by a private consulting firm refutes the idea that mortgage credit was easily attainable leading up to the housing market’s collapse. Using 10 years of mortgage originations, the study finds denial rates were actually higher before the crisis than they are in today’s tight credit market. Yet, just as banks and other financial institutions received taxpayer bailouts, they responded by restricting access to affordable mortgage credit to only the most pristine borrowers.
This restrictive environment is where we find ourselves today. Access to affordable mortgage credit continues to be a real barrier to homeownership, especially for qualified Latinos and other underserved markets. The reduction in mortgage insurance premiums from the FHA is expected to provide some relief to put many qualified Americans on the path to homeownership and better financial prospects. We hope that in the future, policymakers stop blaming victims of the foreclosure crisis and we encourage the Obama administration to continue doing more to put the dream of homeownership back within reach of Latino families.
The House meets Tuesday to vote on eight measures under suspension of the rules. These include several health-related bills passed out of the Ways and Means Committee, a measure to commemorate former Czech President Vaclav Havel, and a resolution condemning Russian interference in Ukraine. On Wednesday and Thursday the House will consider a bill (H.R. 3973) that would require the Attorney General to submit a report to Congress if any federal official foregoes enforcing an enacted law. On these days the House will also take-up a measure (H.R. 4138) that would allow Congress to take legal action against the Administration for failing to execute laws and another (H.R. 3189) that would bar the Departments of Agriculture and Interior from requiring private entities from transferring water rights as a condition for using federal lands. Finally, on Friday, the House will vote on H.R. 4015, a permanent “doc fix.” This bill would alter the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, the formula used to reimburse physicians.
The Senate convenes Monday evening and is scheduled to vote on passage of S. 1917 (Sen. McCaskill), a bill that addresses sexual assault in the military by changing the way these cases are handled within the military chain of command. This week the Senate will also consider a series of judicial and Executive nominations and will begin resume consideration of S. 1086, the reauthorization of the Childcare and Development Block Grant program.
On Monday, the president will host a reception for the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Champions. On Tuesday, President Obama will travel to New York City to attend DNC and DSCC events. The president will also attend unspecified meetings in the White House the balance of the week. Continue reading →
The Senate wraps up its work for the year this week with consideration of several executive nominations, including Jeh Johnson as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on Monday and Janet Yellen to Chair the Federal Reserve later in the week.
On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on cloture on a motion to concur with the House-passed changes to the budget vehicle, H.J. Res. 59 and passage later in the week. The House amended H.J. Res. 59 with the language of the Murray-Ryan bipartisan budget agreement as a means to expedite its consideration.
On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on cloture on a compromise defense authorization, H.R. 3304 which passed in the House last week. The scaled back measure provides the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other agencies $625.1 billion in base and war funding for FY2014. The bill would also require the Defense Department to address sexual assault cases and limits the transferring of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States. A vote on passage is expected later in the week.
The White House this week did not release a detailed schedule. President Obama is expected to give a press conference at some point this week and is otherwise attending unspecified meetings. On Friday, the President and the First Family will leave for Hawaii for the holidays. Continue reading →