Thursday, April 9, 2009

Governor Undecided About Cabinet Office for Hispanics

The Albuquerque Journal this morning reports the governor is undecided about, but leaning against, signing a bill to create a cabinet office of Hispanic Affairs, sponsored by Sen. Michael Sanchez and passed through the legislature this past session. The legislature did not appropriate any funds for the cabinet position, and the governor expressed concerns about the way the bill is written, guaranteeing officers in the new cabinet access to documents about hiring procedures and histories in other state government offices, and requiring the governor to choose a ten-member commission from lists provided by specific Hispanic groups.

Hispanics comprise about 45% of the state's population. Hispanic workers in New Mexico, in 2007, earned about 71% of the income earned by White, non-Hispanic workers. Black workers in New Mexico actually did slightly better that year than Hispanic workers in New Mexico, according to Census Department figures. Unemployment rates for Hispanics are consistently higher than for all other workers put together. There are state government offices specifically targeting black and Native American citizens in New Mexico, but none for Hispanics.

This is a no-win decision for the Governor. Should he sign the bill he will almost certainly face opposition from non-Hispanic citizens who feel we have entered into a post-ethnic period in which discrimination is not serious enough to warrant official redress, and if he fails to sign it he will face strong opposition from Hispanic lobby groups who argue that Richardson, a Hispanic himself, should sign the bill.

Dona Ana County might well be affected by the creation of a cabinet-level position, inasmuch as the county is 65% Hispanic, one of the highest proportions in the State. And the South Mesilla Valley is 84% Hispanic. On the other hand, Hispanic politicians and non-Hispanic politicians from other parts of the state have neglected the needs of the county for as long as one can remember, and it is possible the new cabinet position would be monopolized by Hispanic politicians from the North, largely for the benefit of nortenos . That is, there does not appear to be a strong geographic kinship among Hispanics between those in the North and those in the South.

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