April 22, 2011 | Wall Street Journal | Original Article

Hispanic Values Are American Values

There's a lot of buzz these days about a finding in the 2010 Census that confirms what the Latino community has long known: The Hispanic population in this country has grown dramatically over the last decade. What was once the province of a few states has now become an integral part of our national community.

Although recent news reports about the Census express "surprise" about the size of the Hispanic population, it is important to remember that Latinos have always been a vibrant part of American history and culture. For generations, Latino soldiers have fought and died for this country with valor and distinction. The first Medal of Honor given to a Hispanic soldier was during the Civil War. Latino workers helped build America's railroads and highways. They rebuilt the Pentagon after 9/11. And they have helped raise our children and take care of our elderly.

Still, it's not surprising that the size of the Hispanic population has drawn a great deal of attention. There are now more than 50 million Hispanics in the country. In other words, one out of every six people in America is Hispanic. Moreover, one out of every four children in America is Latino, and 92% of those children are U.S. citizens.

Like others who brought demographic change to America, our presence has stirred anxiety among some of our fellow Americans. A century ago, people expressed the same concerns about waves of immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Eastern Europe. It was understandable-but it also turned out to be unfounded. As the number of Latinos grows, our fellow Americans need to overcome the natural human anxiety that accompanies change and look for common ground.

Every issue that Americans care about-whether education, health care, Social Security or the economy-involves the Latino community. "One out of every four children" means that those who are interested in ensuring that children receive the highest quality education possible should also worry about Hispanic achievement levels. Those working to get our economy back on track need to address high unemployment levels, especially among young Latinos. Now more than ever, with baby boomers reaching retirement age, we need all Americans working and contributing to Social Security and Medicare.

It's time for people to stop thinking about Latinos as "foreigners," "aliens," or "others" and start thinking of us as their fellow workers, classmates, colleagues, worshippers, neighbors, friends and family.

Like other large demographic shifts in our nation's history, the growth of the Latino community will benefit America. Latinos reinforce traditional American values of faith, family and love of country. And they will reinvigorate the economy with a much-needed influx of younger workers committed to hard work, entrepreneurship and service to our nation.