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United States President Barack Obama in a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the Roosevelt Room of the White House Jan, 2013. Photo: White House

A diversity crisis on Capitol Hill

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Cristina Antelo, interim CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), commented on a recent report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies that revealed that Latinos only make up 2.1 percent of Senate staff despite the fact that they make up over 16 percent of the U.S. population.

“There is a diversity crisis on Capitol Hill and many perspectives and life experiences are absent at the top levels of the policy and decision making process,” wrote Antelo in a column for the Huffington Post. 

The lack of access to certain circles and networks, and the finances of young Latinos who cannot afford unpaid internships are some of the challenges to start a career in the capital. In response, CHCI has been offering leadership development programs to educate, empower and connect Latinos in public service.

“Our paid internships and fellowships provide leadership development training and place participants in Congressional offices, federal agencies and national nonprofits,” wrote Antelo. 

The CHCI's alumni serving in the Senate now include Juan Pachon, communications director for Senator Robert Menendez; Marvin Figueroa, senior policy advisor to Senator Mark Warner, and Veronica Duron, legislative assistant for Senator Chuck Schumer.

“We know that the percentage of Latinos serving as staff in the Senate, and in all levels of government, must improve so that our interests are taken into account during public policy decisions that impact all communities,” wrote Antelo. “It won't be long before Juan, Marvin, Veronica, and the many CHCI alumni coming up behind them, will impact the diversity numbers in the Senate and beyond.”

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